CHARLESTON, WV (WOAY) – Gov. Jim Justice met with U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) officials in Charleston Monday to discuss economic growth opportunities for West Virginia in petrochemicals and next-generation coal-fired power plants, including the feasibility of building a petrochemical complex in the Appalachian region.
“My dream for West Virginia’s energy industry that I proposed to President Donald Trump and Secretary of Energy Rick Perry has taken a giant step toward becoming a reality,” Gov. Justice said. “It is absolutely vital that we create a petrochemical industry in West Virginia versus building more pipelines that leave our state without creating any long-term manufacturing jobs.
“President Trump and Secretary Perry are great friends of mine and without a doubt they are doing a terrific job in creating employment opportunities for all Americans and we sincerely appreciate all their help in West Virginia.”
The governor and Secretary of Commerce Ed Gaunch held the meeting at the Governor’s Mansion on Monday with Steven E. Winberg, Assistant Secretary of the Office of Fossil Energy with the DOE, along with West Virginia native Ken Humphreys Jr., Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary for the Office of Fossil Energy.
Assistant Secretary Winberg says that industry analysts estimate that a petrochemical complex, if built, would bring more than $30 billion into the region over the coming decade, creating as many as 100,000 jobs in the process.
“This is just a part of my plan for expanding the energy industry in West Virginia,” Gov. Justice said. “I also proposed an incentive payment to all of the eastern utilities for each ton of central and northern Appalachian coal that they purchase. This incentive payment would cost our nation very little when you consider the security risk we would have if we lost our eastern coal fields.
“Bringing the next generation of energy production to our region will be a complete and total game-changer for West Virginia,” Gov. Justice said. “Not only will we be diversifying our economy like you can’t even imagine, it will also let us put thousands upon thousands of people to work with great-paying jobs and give them a reason to stay right here at home.”
“West Virginia faces a once-in-a-generation opportunity to play a major role in the new Appalachian petrochemical industry,” Assistant Secretary Winberg said. “With abundant quantities of ethane, a valuable petrochemical feedstock, increasingly co-produced with West Virginia’s natural gas, the state is well-positioned to attract a significant slice of that investment and the associated jobs.”
Gov. Justice and Assistant Secretary Winberg agreed that as the state looks toward new energy opportunities, such as petrochemicals, there must be continued commitment to the state’s coal industry. This includes investments in extending the life of existing coal plants while developing a next generation of near-zero emission coal plants that can maintain electricity grid reliability and resiliency, as well as creating family-sustaining coal industry jobs.
“I’ve said all along that we have the resources right here in West Virginia to really put us on the map,” Gov. Justice said. “Now that we’re finally starting to use our resources to their full potential once again, it means that all kinds of industries can move into our region and make our economy one of the best in the whole country.”
Gov. Justice said Monday that he intends to appoint a liaison to work with DOE officials to assist in the plans to bring the petrochemical industry to West Virginia.
“Representatives from the Trump administration have assured us they will do all they can to help us turn this into a reality in the very near future,” Gov. Justice said. “This will take a team effort between the state Legislature, our congressional delegation, and all of our cabinet members to make this happen.
“We still have a long way to go to make this a reality,” Gov. Justice said. “But we’re committed to doing the all the work we need to do and then some because it will make life better for every single person in our state.”