Oil and gas industries feeling regulatory pinch

An editorial from the Parkersburg News and Sentinel

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — Representatives of the oil and natural gas industries in West Virginia spoke last week to a group of reporters and editors gathered in Charleston. Their focus remained mostly on their own industries, but one thing tied them solidly to the coal industry – the Environmental Protection Agency.

Whether it be the Waters of the United States Rule or the Clean Power Plan, the oil and natural gas industry finds itself in line behind coal in the federal government’s crosshairs. And it is not just the EPA. It is the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Bureau of Land Management and the Department of Transportation Office of Pipeline Safety. In fact, one natural gas industry representative said, “They just keep us hopping from one thing to the next.”

According to numbers from WorkForce West Virginia, the assault on the coal industry and reasonable electricity prices has hurt more than simply coal mining jobs. In 2005, the state’s petroleum and coal products manufacturing industry employed 1,107 people. Last year, it employed 633.

Natural gas and oil industry representatives are very concerned about what is happening to coal because they know they are next. Corky DeMarco, executive director of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association, pointed out that during President Barack Obama’s speech announcing the Clean Power Plan, natural gas was not mentioned once; instead, he focused on renewables. This is a change of tune from when Obama praised the leaps made in clean natural gas technology. Now he is publicly ignoring the industry, while allowing his agencies to build their assault on it, too.

There are obstacles to building pipelines that could ensure domestic energy security and regulations that put a halt to exporting our natural gas to countries that would pay dearly for it Environmental rules are not the only weapon in the Obama administration’s fight against not just coal, but the industries that should be flourishing around all the resources with which the Mountain State has been blessed.

“Whether you like it or not, we are an extractive state,” DeMarco said. And it is true, West Virginia will need the support provided by coal, natural gas and oil in order to build a more diversified economy. We can do very little if those pillars are knocked from under us now.

It is beginning to look more and more as though that is the plan.

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