CHARLESTON — West Virginia’s two oil and natural gas associations have merged into one organization.
On Dec. 3, voting members of both the Independent Oil and Gas Association of West Virginia (IOGAWV) and West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association (WVONGA) voted to combine and become the Gas and Oil Association of WV (GO-WV).
“Discussions were initiated back in mid-spring of this year regarding the advantages of merging two very strong organizations that consistently found themselves, over the past few years, being in agreement on virtually all regulatory, legislative and environmental matters,” said IOGAWV executive director Charlie Burd, who is now the executive director of GO-WV.
“In late October, the two separate boards approved to advance the merger and acceptance of other terms to their members. In separate meetings on Dec. 3, voting members of both IOGAWV and WVONGA overwhelmingly ratified the merger of the two associations. At the same time, both associations overwhelmingly voted to approve the name Gas and Oil Association of WV, Inc.”
“With the merger of these two great associations, the industry is better positioned now to advocate for public policy that will help grow this vital industry,” said IOGAWV board president Ben Sullivan. “We also have a singularly focused voice when it comes to publicizing our industry’s positive economic and environmental impact on this state, region and nation.”
Sullivan, who is executive vice president at Diversified Gas & Oil Corporation, will be co-president of the group through summer of 2022.
“By taking regulatory, public relations, legislative, government affairs, environmental, and legal experts from both associations, merger means even more robust committees and membership engagement for GO-WV members,” Sullivan said. “As our individual member companies are doing with their businesses, GO-WV will create operational efficiencies and savings at a time where commodity prices are depressed.”
Maribeth Anderson, director of government relations at Antero Resources, said the merger shows the evolution of the industry in the state.
“When every company in the state is with you, and not divided into two associations, you can meaningfully influence public policy to grow our economy and create jobs,” she said. “For as long as I’ve been in the industry, and for decades before that, there were two oil and gas associations in the state. I’m proud that our industry evolved. So many times we do things just because that’s the way it’s always been done. And so many times we do things because we are provincial or territorial. Oil and gas operators in the state saw the bigger picture, saw what is best for West Virginia over the long term, and made the decision to come together.”
WVONGA board President Thomas Westfall called the merger “a historic moment.”
“I believe combining these two organizations will lead to a stronger and more unified voice for the oil and natural gas industry in West Virginia,” he said. “The merger will allow the new organization to better represent all facets of the industry including production, processing, pipelines and utilities. The merger provides a unique opportunity for sharing best safety and environmental practices across industry sectors.”
Westfall, who is vice president of Mountaineer Gas, says the industry benefits everyone in the state, from the landowners to the consumers of energy.
“People sometimes focus on the work that trade associations do in legislative and regulatory matters, but both WVONGA and IOGA have a long history of being very active in the community as well, and this merger will strengthen our ability to positively impact West Virginia in many ways,” he said.
Jeff Isner of Pillar Energy said the merger will help his company along with other companies to have a stronger voice in speaking up for demand growth within our state and region.
“We, as a state, are fortunate to have abundant supplies of natural gas which greatly boosts the economy,” Isner said. “It would be an even greater step to have demand for our product stay in the state and make West Virginia an attractive location for business growth to counter the population declines we are seeing throughout our local communities. WVONGA and IOGA have always championed that message and now we can do so with one voice.”
GO-WV will have more than 600 members, including producers, pipeline operators, local distribution companies, affiliate businesses and trade organizations, according to Burd.
“In these times of depressed natural gas and oil commodity prices, this merger is the culmination of the industry’s desire to more effectively and efficiently advance the use of natural gas, oil, and NGL’s to entice additional capital investments, protect existing and create new jobs and provide much needed revenues to the state for its use in host of programs that benefit all citizens,” Burd said. “This industry currently employs thousands in West Virginia and is responsible for more than $4 billion in state severance and property tax revenue since 2008.”
Burd added that the newly approved bylaws of GO-WV specify the creation of a combined interim board of directors that will govern the association until summer 2022.
“The combined interim board will be comprised of about 25 currently seated directors from both boards,” he explained. “In the summer of 2022 the organization will conduct an election that will reduce the board to a smaller number.”
Burd said in 2021, GO-WV has lots of work to do.
“With the help of our management team and staff, the next few months will be needed to seat the new brand, establish appropriate operational protocols, consolidate offices and identify our agenda for the upcoming 2021 legislative session,” he said.