Shale, Pipelines Bringing Jobs to West Virginia
The shale revolution spurred incredible job growth in West Virginia in 2018, according to new data released by Work Force West Virginia. The state employed 22,514 oil and natural gas workers in the second quarter of 2018 – the highest direct oil and natural gas employment figures West Virginia has seen in recent years. This represents about 3 percent of total state employment.
As West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association (WVONGA) Executive Director Anne Blankenship said:
“These results showcase the tremendous impact pipeline construction and natural gas industry operations have on West Virginia’s economy.”
Not only is regional oil and natural gas development creating local jobs, but these jobs pay well. WVONGA’s analysis found that total direct industry wages increased by about 50 percent from slightly more than $1 billion in 2016 to more than $1.5 billion in 2017. And at $935 million in the second quarter of 2018 – about 12 percent of total state wages – they were on track to increase even further in 2018.
As the above infographic illustrates, pipelines were a critical driver of West Virginia’s employment growth. The state’s Department of Environmental Protection lists eight major pipelines currently under construction in the state that are providing significant jobs opportunities for West Virginians.
But as a recent Global Energy Institute report details, many of these projects have been delayed due to litigation brought on by the “Keep It In the Ground” (KIITG) movement and permits being denied at the behest of KIITG groups. Most recently, the Maryland Board of Public Works – including Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan – blocked construction of a roughly 3.5 mile pipeline that would transport natural gas from Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale to West Virginia’s eastern panhandle. The $25 million Potomac Pipeline would supply a new insulation manufacturing facility being constructed in the region, as well as provide additional feedstock for the region.
These KIITG attacks are a coordinated effort from a vocal minority against an industry that, as WVONGA’s analysis of state data shows, is having a significant positive impact on West Virginia’s economy. The shale revolution has helped the state’s natural gas consumers save more than $4 billion from 2006 to 2016, led to the Mountain State having the highest economic growth in the country in 2017 and has reinvigorated manufacturing. As Business Development Corporation of the Northern Panhandle Executive Director Patrick Ford told EID in August 2018:
“The growth in our GDP and economy has been driven by energy. Natural gas has given a rebirth to the value-added metal, energy, and chemical industry clusters, expanded our transportation logistics and health care industry clusters, cut our unemployment rate in half, attracted over $400 million of private investment, driven up worker pay rates to the highest levels we have seen since 2008, and fueled a construction industry that has our region growing construction jobs faster than other metro area in the country.”