Tomblin Backs Drilling, But Still No Word on Regulation

Charleston Gazette
15 February 2010
By Ken Ward Jr.

Acting W.Va. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s backing of the state’s natural gas drilling industry, without also pushing for needed regulation of that industry, continues …

The acting governor’s office issued this statement today in conjunction with a press conference at the Capitol:

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin today, joined by leaders in the natural gas and chemical industries, announced the formation of a Marcellus to Manufacturing Task Force. This Task Force will research and develop potential economic development opportunities related to Marcellus Shale and natural gas byproducts such as ethane and ethylene.

And, according to this comment from Tomblin, he doesn’t appear to think there are any problems related to increased drilling across the state:

The environmentally responsible manner in which the extraction of natural gas from Marcellus Shale occurs will bring countless jobs to West Virginia. In addition, if we can feasibly develop thermal or steam crackers to make use of the ethane and ethylene associated with gas, we will have a great opportunity to reinvigorate our manufacturing sector. I have asked this Task Force to look at all of the possibilities and identify how we can take the expansion surge from the natural gas industry to positively impact our chemical and manufacturing industries.

Tomblin must have missed the news about Clean Water Act violations by Chesapeake energy and the reports of what happened at Buckeye Run in Doddridge County — let alone the recommendations from his own Department of Environmental Protection Secretary, Randy Huffman, for more inspectors and tougher permitting and enforcement rules on this growing industry.

One of the two major bills pending at the Legislature was introduced at the request of WVDEP, but the governor’s office specifically noted that it was not an administration bill. And Tomblin was not among the state leaders who turned out for a press conference last week urging “balance” as West Virginia pushes forward into the Marcellus boom.

Here’s the rest of Tomblin’s press release from today:

Specifically, Governor Tomblin requests the Task Force to:

• Research and analyze the feasibility of converting ethane to ethylene using thermal or steam cracking;

• Identify potential private sector companies that specialize in constructing and operating thermal or steam crackers and develop strategies on how to attract such companies; and

• Locate existing infrastructure in the State, including pipelines and storage facilities, which may be upgraded to be used in

conjunction with manufacturing processes associated with ethane, ethylene and other natural gas byproducts.

The Task Force, comprised of the following individuals, will report its findings to the Governor on a semi-annual basis. The

Task Force Members are:

• Greg Babe, President and CEO Of Bayer Corporation and Bayer Material Science LLC;

• Kevin DiGregorio, Ph.D., Executive Director, Chemical Alliance Zone West Virginia;

• Patrick Donovan, Director, Maritime and Intermodal Transportation, Rahall Appalachian Transportation Institute;

• Don Garvin, Legislative Coordinator, West Virginia Environmental Council;

• W. Henry Harmon, President and CEO, Triana Energy;

• Michael John, President and CEO, Northeast Natural Energy;

• Jack Lafield, President and CEO, Caiman Energy;

• Steve Perdue, Government Affairs Manager, EQT;

• Scott Rotruck, Vice President of Corporate Development and State Government Relations, Chesapeake Energy;

• Steven H. White, Director, Affiliated Construction Trades;

• Kurt Dettinger, General Counsel for Governor Tomblin; and

• Keith Burdette, Cabinet Secretary of the West Virginia Department of Commerce.

Each Task Force member appointed by the Governor shall serve a three-year term.