By FRED PACE
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State officials said Monday they have a list of projects connected to the $83.7 billion investment with a Chinese energy company revealed last week, but are not yet in a position to provide full details.
However, West Virginia Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher said the proposed projects are too large to keep confidential for very long and will come out eventually.
“I truly expect construction to start on some of these projects sometime next year,” he said.
West Virginia officials announced last week that the state Department of Commerce entered into an agreement with the China Energy Investment Corporation on a number of shale gas development and chemical manufacturing projects in the Mountain State over the next 20 years.
However, Thrasher and other state officials said they would not release the list or the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the state and the company.
“We don’t want to breach confidentiality with this China business and agreed not to release the MOU between us and them,” Gov. Jim Justice said during a press conference Monday in the Governor’s Reception Room at the State Capitol in Charleston. “We have not even put any shovels in the ground yet.”
Justice said the announcement is the culmination of months of intense work by his office, President Donald Trump’s administration, the state’s commerce and energy departments and other members of state government.
“Incredible things are now happening in West Virginia,” Justice said. “This gives hope, jobs and gives us real life.”
Justice said he directed Thrasher in March to travel to China on two occasions to negotiate this deal, in addition to hosting officials from China in West Virginia twice in recent months.
“We couldn’t let this deal slip away,” Justice said. “We had to make sure West Virginia was not left out and for once West Virginia is not standing there holding the bag with nothing in it.”
Justice says China Energy, the world’s largest coal company and producer of electricity, already has a great relationship with West Virginia University. Since 2002, WVU has been jointly researching coal liquefaction with mining company Shenhua Group, which merged with energy company Guodian Group to form China Energy.
“We’ve got a real opportunity here,” he said. “This is 83,700 billion dollar in investments. It takes your breath away. This could be tens of thousands of good paying jobs, but we have a ways to go to identify exactly how many.”
Brian Anderson, director of WVU’s Energy Institute, said the opportunity starts with manufacturing by adding value to West Virginia’s raw materials.
Anderson said the university said it will work closely with state officials to help coordinate the investment, with funding focused on developing the proposed Appalachia storage and trading hub.
Justice said China Energy would be afforded the same incentives the state would give to others investing in West Virginia’s economy, but he did not give details.
“I will tell you this, they asked for nothing,” he said.
Justice credited his relationship with President Trump for getting this agreement accomplished.
“Whether you like President Trump or not, he is helping West Virginia,” Justice said.
The press conference can be viewed online at http://www.herald-dispatch.com/multimedia/local_videos/.
Follow reporter Fred Pace at Facebook.com/FredPaceHD and via Twitter at @FredPaceHD.
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