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Natural gas jobs could continue climbing in Ohio, West Virginia


The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register

ST. CLAIRSVILLE, Ohio— Through fracking, pipelining, processing, abstracting, manufacturing and other fields, natural gas supported more than 224,000 jobs in Ohio and West Virginia in 2015, with the average annual salary for one of these occupations being more than $63,000, a new industry-sponsored study shows.

The research from the Washington, D.C.-based American Petroleum Institute also predicts there will be an additional 2 million natural gas industry jobs throughout the U.S. by 2040, which would bring the total to approximately 6 million.

“The continued development and increased use of our state’s natural gas resources is essential in providing countless benefits and a better way of life for all Ohioans,” said Chris Zeigler, executive director of the Ohio division of API. “Ohio’s abundant reserves of clean-burning natural gas have provided consumers and businesses in the state with affordable electricity and workers in the state with well-paying jobs.”

Also, developers of the more-than-$3 billion Mountain Valley Pipeline, including EQT Corp., believe a favorable environmental impact statement from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission should bolster the industry growth even further.

“The Mountain Valley Pipeline team appreciates the strong support that the project has received throughout the communities of Virginia and West Virginia and remains committed to responsibly meeting public demand for clean, affordable natural gas,” Natalie A. Cox, a spokeswoman for both EQT Corp. and Mountain Valley Pipeline, said.

According to the API study, more than 188,000 Ohio jobs in 2015 were connected to the natural gas industry, with the payroll for these jobs totaling about $11.6 billion.

In West Virginia, the numbers were nearly 36,000 jobs resulting in almost $2.6 billion in compensation.

“Moving forward, I implore our elected leaders on all levels of government to embrace this energy resource for the continued benefit of every Ohioan,” Zeigler said.

The study shows there were about 4 million natural gas industry jobs throughout the nation in 2015. Officials are predicting this number to grow to 6 million by 2040, an increase of 2 million.

Regional leaders continue awaiting a decision by PTT Global Chemical on whether to build a giant ethane cracker along the Ohio River at Dilles Bottom. If built, the massive plant would likely generate thousands of construction jobs and hundreds of permanent jobs.

Another growth area industry leaders see is in power generation. The study states Ohio features 58 power plants running on natural gas, while West Virginia has another 10.

Multiple natural gas fired power plants have been planned and proposed for the Upper Ohio Valley, including at sites in Marshall and Brooke counties.

“From power generation for homes and businesses that benefit from affordable and reliable electricity, to the industry’s skilled workforce that produces natural gas, to pipelines and the workers who build them, the advantages of natural gas are wide-ranging,” API President and CEO Jack Gerard said.

As for pipelines, some interstate projects are now in the building phase, including the $4.3 billion Rover Pipeline. Now, officials with EQT and the other developers of the Mountain Valley Pipeline hope the favorable FERC report will be one of the final steps toward construction.

The Mountain Valley Pipeline will ship natural gas southward from the MarkWest Energy Mobley complex in Wetzel County to a compressor station in Virginia.

“It’s important to note that since the project’s inception, MVP has adopted 14 route alternative segments and 701 minor route adjustments, the majority of which were based on various landowner requests, avoidance of sensitive and/or cultural and historic resources, or engineering considerations,” Cox said of the efforts to satisfy environmental groups that continue to oppose the project. “These efforts have produced a thoughtfully designed route and led to the development of comprehensive plans to mitigate any potential impacts to the greatest extent possible.”

Other interstate pipelines in some form of permitting or construction include the $2 billion Nexus Pipeline, the $1.4 billion Leach XPress, the $3 billion Atlantic Sunrise, the $5.1 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the $2 billion Mountaineer XPress.

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