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Cole: Get Government Out of the Way

PITTSBURGH — If you ask Bill Cole, Mary Taylor and Mike Turzai how state government can further the Marcellus and Utica shale boom, they will likely tell you it’s by doing as little as possible.

On Thursday, the three state leaders representing West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania converged for a panel discussion at the Shale Insight oil and natural gas conference in Pittsburgh. Cole, who serves as both West Virginia Senate president and the state’s Republican gubernatorial nominee this year, said the Mountain State’s shale fields do not need more oversight.

“We need to get out of the way in state government,” Cole said. “We continue to create an environment for the job creators.”

A native of southern West Virginia, a coal-dependent area now struggling due to heavy job loss in that industry, Cole said government must allow coal and natural gas to flourish.

“We have to diversify our state, but to ignore our vast resources would be a travesty,” he said.

Taylor, a Republican who serves as Ohio lieutenant governor, and Turzai, a Republican serving as speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, agreed with Cole. Turzai acknowledged some residents are working to stop natural gas pipeline development.

“You’re not getting natural gas to your home, or to anywhere else, without some sort of transport system,” Turzai said.

Taylor said hundreds of jobs are already available because of the oil and natural gas industry in Ohio, while she said thousands more could be headed to the Buckeye State if Thailand-based PTT Global Chemical builds a multi-billion-dollar ethane cracker at Dilles Bottom in Belmont County.

However, she is unsure enough young people in the Upper Ohio Valley hold the skills necessary to succeed in these jobs. She said the education system must find ways to help workers to succeed in jobs that require some level of training, but not a four-year academic degree.

“I think we have failed that generation,” Taylor said, noting her sons are in their 20s. “So much of the emphasis was on going to college.”

“We’ve skipped a generation with the trade skills,” Cole added.

All three leaders agreed shale development gives their states competitive advantages over states that lack abundant natural resources.

“This should be the greatest thing our three states have ever seen,” Cole said. “It would be great, in my opinion, if we could jointly take over the narrative about how great this is. We need to think big in West Virginia.”

Turzai also said the formal announcement of Royal Dutch Shell’s petrochemical complex in Beaver County, Pa. will help further the economies of all three states.

“That is the game-changer,” he said.

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