On March 7, both Republican and Democrat members of the West Virginia House of Delegates voted overwhelmingly, 80-17, to support House Resolution 11 acknowledging the importance of the construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and other needed energy infrastructure projects in West Virginia while condemning, as noted in the resolution, “the all-out assault on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project” by certain environmental groups who have “the ultimate aim of forcing its cancelation.”
It’s not difficult to understand the widespread legislative support for this project when you consider the facts, which are referenced in the resolution. “Studies indicate construction and operation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline alone will generate massive economic benefits for West Virginia, including almost $478 million in additional economic activity during the construction period and more than $15 million in additional economic activity each year after the facility begins operating.” The project “will create thousands of new job opportunities for the working men and women of West Virginia and significant new tax revenues” for many counties in the state.
Additionally, the “Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s environmental impact has been repeatedly and thoroughly analyzed by state and federal agencies, including the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and the U. S. Forest Service, among others, with all of the agencies finding that the project can be built and operated in a manner that protects the natural resources of West Virginia and the other states in its path.”
A recent public opinion poll (April 2019) conducted by the West Virginia Oil & Natural Gas Association (WVONGA) found that 68 percent of West Virginia voters have a positive opinion of the natural gas industry and a plurality of voters think the natural gas industry will play the largest role in West Virginia’s economic future. Given the overwhelmingly favorable public sentiment and the benefits of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project, it’s no surprise the House of Delegates voted in favor of House Resolution 11.
The fact that the public views the natural gas industry positively is an inconvenient truth for some Charleston Gazette-Mail reporters, one of whom is funded by ProPublica, a national non-profit journalism group based in New York. It does not fit their predetermined narrative to keep all natural resources in the ground even if that drives jobs and economic opportunity out of West Virginia.
Since mid-2018, Gazette-Mail reporters, Kate Mishkin and Ken Ward, (Ward’s salary is reimbursed by ProPublica), have written over 20 articles attacking the oil and natural gas and other businesses and industries in West Virginia, including Mishkin’s most recent report on July 11 — “A resolution condemning pipeline challengers passed easily in the WV House. A pipeline lobbyist wrote it.” There was also a corresponding editorial from the Gazette-Mail on July 16, “Lobbyist-authored resolution shocking in lack of shock.”
Both recent articles target a well-respected natural gas advocate, simply for doing his job. In West Virginia, lobbyists must register with the West Virginia Ethics Commission, must take ethics training and must report their spending to the West Virginia Ethics Commission. Lobbyists exist to represent certain industries, groups, workers, businesses, consumers, and companies. There is a lobbyist to represent almost everyone — environmental groups, unions, non-business sector interest groups, and even newspapers employ lobbyists.
Additionally, the Gazette-Mail tries to make a point that legislation drafted by a non-legislator is somehow inappropriate. A large portion of the more than 2,000 bills introduced each session are drafted by non-legislators. It is the Legislature’s job to fully vet, debate, amend and consider legislation.
The Gazette-Mail’s recent attack is simply unfounded and another attempt by ProPublica to undermine West Virginia jobs in the natural gas industry. It’s time for a better representation of our state’s priorities and a more equitable and accurate portrayal of the industries and businesses that generate opportunities for all of us.