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rusty hutson

Rusty Hutson Jr.

“Opportunities are like sunrises. If you wait too long, you miss them.” That maxim, credited to author and poet William Arthur Ward, can be applied to the situation West Virginia finds itself in related to natural gas and petrochemical development. If we do not pursue our opportunities with great urgency now, they will be lost forever – to the significant detriment of our State and its current and future citizens.

West Virginians by now are acutely aware of the opportunities before us. Our state sits atop an immense shale reservoir of clean-burning natural gas. This treasure has already created tens of thousands of good paying jobs in resource extraction and through the construction of transportation infrastructure. The “shale renaissance” has already rejuvenated many West Virginia communities, provided family-sustaining jobs, increased state and local tax revenues and changed the course of our economy. But, much work remains for us to fully realize our potential.

As a native West Virginian, and graduate and current board member of Fairmont State University, I have witnessed firsthand the economic transformation of northcentral West Virginia over the past 10 years. And my company, Diversified Gas & Oil, is working to create opportunities for our 425-plus employees throughout the state in an environmentally safe and responsible manner.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration projects that by 2050, natural gas and natural gas liquids production in the Appalachian Basin will double from 2019 levels. If we take advantage of this amazing increase in production, West Virginia can become a domestic and global hub for petrochemical development and downstream manufacturing.

West Virginia must leverage the incredible advantage our shale resources provide to attract small, medium, and large-scale chemical processing and manufacturing facilities, clean-burning natural gas-fired power plants, and the related ancillary and support jobs. Accomplishing this will require the development of critical infrastructure and the continued, direct involvement of State leaders and private industry.

Maximizing our gas, oil and liquids production requires the permitting and construction of additional pipelines so that we can transport our resources safely and reliably to processing facilities and new markets. Similarly, the development of storage facilities is important for petrochemical processors, like an ethane cracker, to have access to needed components. This infrastructure, which will employ thousands while under construction, will further position West Virginia and the region to become a major center for natural gas and petrochemical development.

Equally important is the need for state policy makers to continue creating a regulatory environment conducive for industry growth.

A recent report prepared by the U.S. Department of Energy, “The Appalachian Energy & Petrochemical Renaissance – An Examination of Progress and Opportunities,” notes that “Conducting business-as-usual in the public sector is not sufficient to help Appalachia fully realize the benefits of an Appalachian energy and manufacturing renaissance. Federal, state and local governments must act, in close alignment with the private sector and other stakeholders.”

The report also states that “there are three areas where public sector investment is critical: creating a pro-growth business environment, developing public infrastructure and supporting workforce development. In addition, government has an important role to communicate the economic opportunity to help mobilize and align public- and private-sector efforts.”

On these points, West Virginia is making forward progress. While more should be done, we enjoy a pro-growth business environment, our workforce development efforts are strategically aligned, and State officials are working to promote and realize the opportunities at hand.

In 2019, Gov. Jim Justice established the Governor’s Downstream Jobs Task Force. This initiative, led by top state agency officials, is working to bring downstream manufacturing opportunities to West Virginia. In announcing the task force, Gov. Justice said, “The potential is endless. This is one of the most important moments of our time.”

I could not agree more.

Like so many great companies across the state, Diversified is committed to West Virginia. We are investing $100 million annually in our Mountain State operations.

We recognize the opportunities presented by the shale renaissance and want to see them come to fruition in West Virginia. The competition — globally, domestically and regionally – is fierce. Other shale states are moving at full speed to take advantage of the downstream development opportunities in front of us.

Realizing the full potential our shale resources offer will signal a new day for West Virginia. Let’s not miss the sunrise.

Rusty Hutson Jr., a native West Virginian whose family has worked in the oil and natural gas industry for four generations, is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Diversified Gas & Oil Corporation.