Gov. Justice announces new Downstream Jobs Task Force

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WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, WV (WVNS) — Governor Jim Justice signed an executive order, establishing the Governor’s Downstream Jobs Task Force. This new task force will work to bring downstream manufacturing opportunities to West Virginia ahead of the anticipated expansion of the petrochemical industry in Appalachia.

The announcement was made on Wednesday during the Governor’s yearly address at the annual West Virginia Chamber of Commerce Business Summit. It comes after recent visits from members of the U.S. Department of Energy looking for potential locations to build petrochemical plants or other infrastructure.

According to the DOE, this so-called Appalachian Petrochemical Renaissance could lead to significant growth in the region, including $36 billion in capital investment, more than 100,000 steady jobs, $28 billion in economic expansion, and $2.9 billion in annual tax revenues.

“The potential is endless. This is one of the most important moments of our time,” Gov. Justice said. “In order to reach all that potential, we need to have downstream manufacturing operations already in place. And that’s where this new task force comes in.”

The task force is made up of officials from executive branch agencies, and business and energy leaders from across the state. The goal is to encourage other energy operations to locate at various points throughout West Virginia to support the construction of additional petrochemical facilities.

Members of Gov. Justice’s Administration on the task force include Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Austin Caperton, Department of Revenue Secretary Dave Hardy, Department of Commerce Secretary Ed Gaunch, and Tourism Commissioner Chelsea Ruby. Other members include Javier A. Reyes, Dean of the West Virginia University John Chambers College of Business and Economics as well as James F. Wood, Interim Director of the Energy Institute at West Virginia University.

The early stages of this Appalachian Petrochemical Renaissance are already underway. Appalachia now produces more than 32 percent of all natural gas in the country and 600,000 barrels per day of natural gas liquids. This past year alone, West Virginia produced 1.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Over the past eight years, productivity has increased by 600 percent.

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