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Submitted photo Steven Winberg, assistant secretary for fossil energy at the Department of Energy, spoke at the event.

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — "Opportunity" was the key message at this week's Independent Oil and Gas Association of West Virginia (IOGAWV) summer meeting, which featured a roster of speakers who described a bright future for the state.

"I think we're all leaving here with optimism around the continued prospects for growth in the petrochemical sector even though the upstream production sector continues its struggles with low commodity prices," Kevin Ellis, IOGAWV board of directors' vice president, said in a news release about the event. "The folks most familiar with the oil and gas industry understand the state's potential. We understand how it can generate and nurture economic growth. We hosted an impressive lineup of speakers this week, and they presented a bright future for Appalachia."

One of those speakers was Steven Winberg, assistant secretary for fossil energy at the Department of Energy.

"The United States is on the brink of an Appalachian Petrochemical Renaissance," he said in the release. "This renaissance started with the shale energy revolution, which rewrote the storyline and transformed the energy development of West Virginia and Appalachia. U.S. technological innovation has allowed the United States to emerge as the world's top producer of oil and gas and a net exporter of natural gas."

The summer meeting coincided with news that the state's natural gas production reached record levels in 2018, increasing 17% from 2017. The industry employs more than 22,000, according to IOGAWV.

"This is an exciting time for our industry and for the state," IOGAWV executive director Charlie Burd said. "We know we have challenges, but opportunities abound. And across the state, support is growing. Our industry is a critical part of West Virginia's economy, and its potential is vast."

Speakers and presenters also included U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va.; U.S. Rep. Carol Miller, R-W.Va.; Gov. Jim Justice; West Virginia State Senate President Mitch Carmichael; West Virginia House of Delegates Speaker Roger Hanshaw; EQT CEO Toby Rice; MarkWest Energy Vice President Jim Crews; Greylock Energy CEO Kyle Mork; and John Deskins, director of West Virginia University's Bureau of Business & Economic Research.

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