By RUSTY MARKS
The State Journal
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Several hundred oil and gas industry executives, workers and supporters met in Charleston on Tuesday, March 21, for a rally on the steps of the state Capitol.
“The work that you do should be celebrated,” said Maribeth Anderson, president of the West Virginia Oil & Natural Gas Association. Anderson said the myth that most of the people who work in the state’s oil and gas industry don’t live in the state is just not true, and members in the crowd shouted out their home counties to prove it.
“You’re benefiting the people of the world,” Carmichael said. “We need to do more to help you do your job (in employing West Virginians and helping the state economy). We stand with you to make the changes in the policy and the law to help the industry.”
Armstead, who said he was the fourth generation of his family to have worked in the oil and gas industry, said the House and Senate are working on legislation designed to help oil and gas producers.
“We have a very strong group of advocates for your industry in this Legislature,” he said. “Together we’ll continue to build a strong economy for our state.”
Nine other lawmakers addressed the crowd.
“You are the game-changers,” Delegate Joe Statler, R-Monongalia, said. “You are the ones who are going to get us out of the problems that we’re in.”
Delegate Rupie Phillips, I-Logan, may have been the most succinct of the speakers.
“Thank God Obama’s gone,” he said. “Thank God we’ve got Donald J. Trump, and let’s make West Virginia great again.”
Gov. Jim Justice used his time behind the lectern to push his budget and economic recovery plan for the state. Justice proposes modest increases in sales and business taxes, increasing taxes on the very wealthy and some budget cuts to dig the state out of a $450 million deficit, and raising DMV fees and tolls on the West Virginia Turnpike to fund a massive road-building project he believes can put 48,000 people to work.
“We need to create a vehicle to create instant jobs,” Justice said.
“I can take us somewhere,” he said. “I can’t take us somewhere without you.”
“I need you to let your voice be heard,” Justice said.
Justice was followed by state Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher. Thrasher said the administration is working on a partnership with governors in Ohio and Pennsylvania to pool resources and create a secondary industry creating “value-added products” from oil and gas.
Following the rally, Thrasher explained that rather than just piping oil and natural gas out of the state, officials in Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and possibly Kentucky want to get together to build ethane crackers and other infrastructure to use ethane and other natural gas byproducts, which can be made into plastics and have other uses.
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