Senator Jay Rockefeller on Wednesday said the state is poised to maximize the enormous potential of shale gas drilling if infrastructure needs, challenges and opportunities are addressed early.
Rockefeller's remarks came during a field hearing of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. Rockefeller is chairman of the committee, whose jurisdiction includes transportation, pipeline safety, rail and other infrastructure that supports shale gas and he insisted on bringing the committee to West Virginia to highlight some of the issues facing the industry.
"Every aspect of shale development presents us with both challenges and opportunities," Rockefeller said. "In my experience, the only way to maximize opportunities over the long haul is to understand and tackle the challenges smartly."
The hearing highlighted aspects of the Committee's jurisdiction over the shale gas development process. The hearing was unique in its focus on infrastructure-related issues and a forward look at planning ahead for potential development that extends even beyond resource extraction. Specifically, it focused on three key areas related to shale gas development: roads and trucks; natural gas pipelines; and the infrastructure needs of post-production manufacturers, including those who operate ethane "cracker" facilities or use shale gas resources for other value-added industries down the road.
"Whether highway issues or pipeline safety, if West Virginia gets it right up front--if we find and follow best practices, address community concerns, and meet developers' needs--sustainable future success will follow," Rockefeller said.
Rockefeller asked officials at the West Virginia High Tech Consortium to host the hearing, which took place at the Robert H. Mollohan Research Center.
"The development of Marcellus and Utica shales can be an economic boon to this state and the region," said West Virginia Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette during testimony. "Aside from the natural gas production, the other byproducts associated with the Marcellus region will work to the benefit of the state. It presents a unique opportunity to see a reemergence in manufacturing in this state. The development of the gas fields and ethane crackers in close proximity will attract downstream manufacturing to produce value-added chemicals and materials. West Virginia must be poised to take full advantage of this opportunity with the necessary infrastructure."
"I am very happy to represent the citizens of Marshall County at this hearing to share issues, problems and concerns about the gas industry," said Marshall County Sheriff John Gruzinskas, who testified before the committee on Wednesday.
The witness list included:
Honorable Paul A. Mattox Jr., Secretary, West Virginia Department of Transportation
Mr. Scott Rotruck, Vice President, Corporate Development, Chesapeake Energy Corporation
Sheriff John Gruzinskas, Marshall County, West Virginia
Ms. Tina Foracca, Vice President of Strategic Development, Spectra Energy
Mr. Corky Demarco, Executive Director, West Virginia Oil & Natural Gas Association
Mr. Randy Albert, Chief Operating Officer, Gas Operations, CONSOL Energy
Mr. Owen Kean, Senior Director, Energy Policy, American Chemistry Council
Honorable Keith Burdette, Secretary, West Virginia Department of Commerce
Mr. Dean Piacente, Vice President of Chemicals and Fertilizer, CSX Transportation Inc.
Mr. Patrick Donovan, Director of Maritime and Intermodal Transportation, Rahall Appalachian Transportation Institute
Mr. Steve White, Director, Affiliated Construction Trades, West Virginia State Building & Construction Trades Council