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Report outlines strategies to maximize economic impact of Marcellus Shale

Jun. 01, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

West Virginia's potential to grow investment, jobs and wealth as a result of the Marcellus Shale is the focus of a new report from Marshall University's Center for Business and Economic Research.

Vision Shared, a nonprofit organization that specializes in economic and community development, commissioned the study because it wants people from outside the natural gas industry to educate themselves about the issue.

"Those in the industry will read this report and say, 'We already know all of this,' " said Steve White, a Vision Shared board member and executive director of the Affiliated Construction Trades, which represents about 20,000 union workers in West Virginia. "We believe those who are not will find it very informative."

White said the report sidesteps issues such as horizontal drilling and ethane crackers and instead focuses on the potential impact of the Marcellus Shale on the future of manufacturing, vehicle fuel and electricity generation. It also focuses on policies and incentives for maximizing the economic benefits of shale gas in the state.

"To reap the greatest possible return, this necessarily includes activities beyond drilling, hydraulic fracturing and cracking," the report said. "Maximizing the potential yields from the shale gas industry in West Virginia will not occur without significant planning and having forward-looking policies in place in advance of need while providing responsive reaction to opportunities and threats."

A theme throughout the report is how West Virginia can gain the most economic benefit by building the capacity to process natural gas and natural gas liquids in the state.

"If West Virginia and the broader region, that also includes the similarly extensive Utica Shale, are able to grow regional supply of these value-added products, more of the economic benefits of the resource can be retained in the region," according to the report.

White said he likens the opportunities that come with shale gas to the timber industry.

"If you're harvesting timber, it makes sense to look at building a saw mill, which will lead to businesses that will build cabinets and furniture," he said. "It's the same thing with natural gas. If all we become is a resource colony, we're not capturing the total benefit."

To read the report in its entirety, visit www.visionshared.com/shale.

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