The governors of Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia announced they’d signed a three-year cooperation agreement to try to maximize the economic impact of Marcellus Shale natural gas development following the Tri-State Shale Summit in West Virginia earlier this week.
Economic groups in the three states are praising the deal.
“When a company is looking to locate in Pennsylvania, they don’t just look at the supply chain in Pennsylvania or the workforce in Pennsylvania, but they look at West Virginia and Ohio as well, so it’s important that all three areas have their act together and are working to attract jobs and investment that will benefit all of us,” said Ken Zapinski, senior vice president of energy and infrastructure with the Allegheny Conference on Community Development.
At the summit, state leaders agreed to coordinate workforce development, marketing efforts, investment strategies and academic research as they capitalize on Utica and Marcellus shale development.
Moving from figuring out how to best extract natural gas from shale, the focus now is on how to ensure states get the most out of what they develop.
“The idea is, how do we start adding value to the gas and the natural gas liquids that are coming out of the ground – add that value here, in our economy, rather than ship it off somewhere else to do that,” said Zapinski.
One way to do that, said Zapinski, is to attract companies to the area that will develop ethane crackers. He pointed to Shell, which is considering opening an ethane cracker plant in Beaver County. He said that site is less than 15 miles from the borders of Ohio and West Virginia.
“When Shell is looking about whether this region has enough construction workers and welders to build the plant and enough technical people to maintain it and run it after it’s built, they’re looking well into Ohio and West Virginia as they’re looking at where their workforce is going to be drawn from,” said Zapinski.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports the three states have had 85 percent of the increase in U.S. natural gas production since January 2012. The agreement calls the three-state area "an emerging world-class energy center."
“This industry has a very positive future,” said Jeff Sheridan, spokesman for Gov. Wolf. “Governor Wolf wants to work with the industry to make sure we are growing the industry in a responsible manner in Pennsylvania, that we are educating the future workforce and training a future skilled workforce to work in this industry and take the jobs that this industry is creating.”