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Pipelines Are Priority In Ohio Valley Shale Development

Photo by Casey Junkins West Virginia Delegate Mark Zatezalo, R-Hancock, looks on Wednesday during the Shale Insight conference in Pittsburgh, as Pennsylvania state Sen. Camera Bartolotta reviews her notes.

PITTSBURGH — Officials said oil and natural gas development created about $40 billion worth of economic development in the Marcellus and Utica shale region, but they know a series of interstate pipeline projects still under federal review would generate billions more in additional activity.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is scheduled to address the 2016 Shale Insight Conference at approximately 11 a.m. today at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in downtown Pittsburgh. On Wednesday, however, industry leaders and elected officials at the conference discussed both the progress and the untapped potential the region.

Officials agreed that six major interstate pipelines that remain under Federal Energy Regulatory Commission review would give the area a boost once contractors build them.

Regarding the pipelines, West Virginia Delegate Mark Zatezalo, R-Hancock, joined Pennsylvania state Sen. Camera Bartolotta and others for a panel discussion. Zatezalo said concerns about the pipelines crossing West Virginia’s mountainous terrain are exaggerated.

“Some of the best pipeline builders in mountainous terrain are in my state. I will stand with those folks who build them,” he said.

“The market is down in Pennsylvania. Much of it lies on our lack of infrastructure,” Bartolotta added.

The conduits now under FERC review are the Atlantic Coast Pipeline from Tyler County to North Carolina; the Rover Pipeline from West Virginia and Ohio to Michigan; the Leach XPress from Marshall County all the way across Ohio; the Mountain Valley Pipeline from Wetzel County to Virginia; the Mountaineer XPress from West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania to Kentucky; and the Nexus Pipeline, which would stretch from Harrison County to the Detroit area.

Officials said they understand there are legitimate environmental concerns FERC must consider, but said they believe most of the delays are being driven by anti-fossil fuel advocates. Brian Wilson, director of infrastructure development for Dominion Resources, said after consulting with regulators, the company created what he hopes will be a “finalized” route for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, adding he believes it should be in service sometime in 2019.

“It was driven by electricity needs in the Mid-Atlantic, due to coal plant retirements,” Wilson said of the pipeline.

Regarding electricity generation, Donald Moul, FirstEnergy Corp. senior vice president for operations and environment, said his company continues shifting from coal-fired generation to natural gas. The company plans to deactivate four old units at the giant W.H. Sammis Plant in Jefferson County by 2020.

“We need to manage this transition so that our customers have the right level of reliability,” Moul said.

In answering a question about whether natural gas development is hurting West Virginia’s coal industry, Zatezalo said he believes it is not.

“The devastation in the southern West Virginia coalfields is not caused by gas at all. The state, itself, is suffering terribly right now, I can tell you that,” he said.

Gary Heminger, chairman, president and CEO of Marathon Petroleum Corp., said even though drilling activity is down from recent years, officials must look at the long-term picture.

“What we are doing in (the Appalachian Basin) has had, and will continue to have, global implications. Without us doing what we do, much of the world will simply go without energy,” he said.

Despite the global slowdown in drilling, Chevron Corp. Vice President Patrick Blough said his company has no plans to abandon its position in Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

“We genuinely believe this is a world class resource, and we are genuinely committed to developing it,” he said.

In addition to the Trump speech, also scheduled to speak today during a panel discussion are West Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Cole, Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, West Virginia Secretary of Commerce Keith Burdette and Pennsylvania Speaker of the House Mike Turzai.

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