API economic adviser touting gas development in West Virginia - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

API economic adviser touting gas development in West Virginia

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The oil and gas industry, increasingly visible in West Virginia, is still working to ensure that citizens of the regions where it's present see the industry as a valuable partner in the community.

Rayola Dougher, senior economic advisor at the American Petroleum Institute, spoke with The State Journal as she prepared to speak to members of the West Virginia Manufacturers Association in Daniels this week. Dougher said that the gas industry is boosting manufacturers across the country.

"It really impacts any area that's having this development in terms of employment impact directly as well as indirectly because there's such a long supply chain," Dougher said. "It's not just oil and gas drillers – it would be construction jobs, professional jobs, the service industry, even food services, administrative, truck transportation, real estate, so the list goes on and on – as it reverberates throughout the community, this new creation and these new jobs."

There's so much natural gas in the shale reserves, she said, prices are plummeting in the country, making it cheaper for energy-intensive manufacturers to work in the United States.

"That has incentivized a lot of manufacturing companies to come back to the United States," Dougher said. "They are able to compete with lower price labor abroad because we have lower price energy here."

West Virginia is poised to capitalize on the industry's expansion.

"It's looking pretty good for West Virginia," Dougher added, pointing to a number of downstream economic and employment opportunities. "It's really a very big plus for any manufacturer in the U.S., particularly here in West Virginia because you're right on top of the resource."

The jobs available are plentiful, she said, and the state should look at opportunities to partner with the industry to educate future West Virginia workers for careers in the oil and gas business.

"It really goes across a broad spectrum of needs, from driving a truck or construction or technical expertise," Dougher said. "If you look at the general population in West Virginia there's no reason that workers here and especially young people here can't take advantage of the demand for jobs and many of those are well-paying jobs."

Jobs in areas such as construction and pipeline transportation, she added, are well-paying jobs.

Those not in the industry can also benefit.

"You have a lot of jobs, a lot of new government revenue – federal local and state revenue – generated right here with a lot of value added for the state products," she said. "The future is looking optimistic too."

In addition, people are saving money through lower heating bills, cheaper electricity and lower prices on goods that are produced using natural gas.

"All of that has been part of the real revolution that's going on in the natural gas industry in the United States," she said, adding that there is no reason West Virginia can't be as competitive as neighboring Ohio or Pennsylvania.

Meanwhile, Dougher said that efforts to educate the public on the safety of the industry from its point of view have improved. Many expressed fear or skepticism over the industry, particularly techniques such as hydraulic fracturing or horizontal drilling. What was the gas industry's reaction?

"Education – we have to get out there at every opportunity and make sure we talk to local communities that are new to this development," she said. "There's a heck of a lot of misinformation out there, but there's also a lot of good information out there too."