Growing Economy and Safeguarding Environment

As we begin the New Year, West Virginia’s economic outlook continues to surpass expectations, with another month of revenue adding to our state’s record surplus — with the energy industry being credited by state budget officials as being the primary driver of these gains.

According to the West Virginia Department of Tax and Revenue and the State Treasurer’s Office, West Virginia’s oil and natural gas industry paid more than $138 million in severance taxes in the fiscal year 2018, up 4.3 percent. Moreover, total severance tax collections year-to-date are up a remarkable 45.8 percent.

Meanwhile, Work Force West Virginia found the number of jobs building natural gas pipelines grew by 434 percent between the first quarter of 2017 and the second quarter of 2018.

By developing our state’s natural resources in an environmentally sustainable manner and putting West Virginians back to work, the energy industry is not just bolstering our state’s economy — helping to fund many of the public services we depend on, including schools, hospitals, roads, and public safety. The energy industry is also helping to reduce costs for households and businesses, helping to make West Virginia an even more attractive state for economic development.

From 2006 to 2016, families across the state saved more than $4 billion on their natural gas bills thanks to record increases in local production. The energy savings also impacted businesses, with commercial and industrial users realizing $2.7 billion in savings.

Unfortunately, not everyone is happy West Virginians are getting back to work and that the state’s families are experiencing lower energy costs.

A recent analysis by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Energy Institute shows that delays in energy infrastructure projects and bans in energy development have blocked more than $91.9 billion in economic activity nationwide. It has also eliminated nearly 730,000 jobs and cost federal, state and local governments more than $20 billion in tax revenue.

All this, courtesy of the “Keep It in the Ground” movement, engineered by a small but vocal group of extremists who falsely pit the development of our natural resources against our collective desire for a cleaner environment– even though recent data shows we can have both.

Thanks to state-of-the-art technologies and stringent environmental regulations, the United States reduced its carbon emissions more than any other country. In fact, since 2016, greenhouse gas emissions have declined 2.7 percent, federal data shows.

Regardless of the facts, the movement’s backers — most of whom are well-funded activists backed by out-of-state, radical groups — have used varying maneuvers including lawsuits, appeals, protests, and vandalism to oppose all traditional energy development and the infrastructure we depend on — everything from pipelines to transmission lines. These groups use these tactics even after years of environmental analysis, regulatory hearings, and ultimately approvals have been completed by state and federal agencies in an attempt to not just postpone work indefinitely, but also to unnecessarily increase construction and permitting costs. They don’t just stop operations, they ultimately hurt families and businesses within our communities.

There is a trail of harmful consequences when our energy resources don’t get developed, and infrastructure doesn’t get built. Jobs and tax revenues are lost and communities don’t get revitalized. Hardworking tradespeople and their families suffer. Businesses and manufacturers lose a competitive edge. Energy costs go up, as does dependence on costly, and often unnecessary, imports from foreign nations — countries that are sometimes hostile and go without protections for workers or the environment.

Much of this is nothing new. We’ve known for years there are activist groups that misinform communities and push extreme policies to the detriment of American families. However, we didn’t know until now, how much they cost our families and communities — or how much work we have before us to get the conversation back on track.

Blankenship is executive director of the WV Oil & Natural Gas Association. Ventura is regional director of the Consumer Energy Alliance.

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