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New caucus formed within the House of Delegates to generate information about the natural gas industry

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On Jan. 21, Delegates Doug Skaff, D – Kanawha and Eric Nelson, R - Kanawha announced the formation of a new caucus within the House of Delegates designed to generate a flow of information concerning the state's natural gas industry to assist legislators in making informed decisions regarding policy issues affecting the state's fastest growing industry. 

Skaff said, "It is critical that we position West Virginia in a manner to capitalize on the opportunity for economic success unlike our state has seen in decades.  With a forecast for significant growth, the oil and gas industry provides us with that opportunity and we need to work in conjunction with industry to ensure we realize the potential while maintaining appropriate levels of oversight."

Gas Works WV Caucus will provide an avenue to create awareness, educate leaders, and support policy facilitating the use of the clean, low cost and abundant natural gas being produced from the Marcellus Shale formation as well as other formations underlying West Virginia. Delegate Nelson commented, "A major emphasis of the caucus will be to embrace the industry in ways which foster its potential to generate thousands of more jobs, spawn capital investment in downstream manufacturing activities and transform the West Virginia economy." 

The caucus will work to build coalitions of support to help resolve the social, environmental and infrastructure issues faced by areas of the state that are experiencing significant impacts from increased activity related to the gas industry.  Delegate Nelson said, "I am looking forward to working in a bi-partisan manner to ensure that West Virginia does not miss this once in a lifetime opportunity.  All of us, no matter our political party, need to work together to ensure that our children have promising futures right here in West Virginia and I look forward to working with Delegate Skaff on this worthwhile initiative."

Delegate Kevin Craig, D-Cabell, who was recently appointed chairman of the newly established House of Delegates Standing Committee on Energy, expressed enthusiasm for the new caucus noting, "West Virginia is blessed with energy resources and certainly natural gas has taken on increased importance locally, nationally and even internationally. We should embrace the work of the Gas Works Caucus as it works to help us identify policies by which our state can realize its potential in this important area of economic development."

The caucus is meant to be primarily an educational tool.  Both Delegate Skaff and Delegate Nelson noted that information regarding the natural gas industry often comes through filters which distort the actual facts and jointly said, "The Caucus will facilitate a foundation of knowledge based on facts by which public policy can be shaped to foster growth of the natural gas industry and the various ancillary economic benefits it brings to our state."

West Virginia's immense natural gas supply has been projected to last up to 100 years. The jobs created from this industry are good paying, long-term jobs that will keep West Virginians employed for years – giving the current generation of West Virginians opportunities at all levels of a career cycle.  It has been reported recently that the average annual wage of an employee in the industry now exceeds $75,000.

The potential for additional investment in an associated petro-chemical industry generating raw materials for downstream manufacturing activities in West Virginia means more jobs and is equally important to the objectives of the caucus.  "Energy security for America and job creation for West Virginia are concepts for which sound information must be available to members of the House of Delegates," said Delegate Skaff.  He went on to say the new caucus would gather and distribute such information.

This caucus will focus on policy issues that will strengthen the economic output of our state and create numerous jobs not only in the natural gas industry but also in related fields, such as mid-stream infrastructure, manufacturing, retail and service sectors.