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Thumbs down: Residency data a must to rate gas industry’s benefit

Oct. 30, 2013 @ 12:13 AM

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s administration has issued an upbeat report about the oil and gas industry’s  impact on West Virginia, particularly gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale field.

Employment grew 20 percent from 2011 to 2012, and the average annual wage rose nearly 8 percent to $75,580, according to the Department of Commerce’s Workforce West Virginia division.

But the report didn’t say how many West Virginians are benefiting directly by having jobs in this growing industry, even though law requires that information and Tomblin’s administration said it would be forthcoming, according to a report by The Charleston Gazette.

When the legislature developed regulations governing the booming natural gas industry two years ago,  the House passed a bill requiring companies to disclose the residency of their employees. But lobbyists for the industry objected and the requirement was deleted during closed-door talks with the governor’s office. The final version did require an annual report from the Commerce Department that was to include a review of the number of jobs created for legal West Virginia residents and non-residents and a review of “the number of employees domiciled” in West Virginia.

The first report last year didn’t include that information, nor did the most recent one. Officials provided a number of reasons why it wasn’t available, although somehow they were able to come up with a racial and ethnic breakdown of the labor force in that industry.

The lack of residency information could make one wonder whether labor groups have it right when they complain that companies were using out-of-state workers to fill too many of the jobs.

We just don’t know, because the governor’s administration isn’t telling us.

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