Rockefeller Remarks on Shale Gas Development

April 11, 2012

JDR Head ShotFAIRMONT, WEST VIRGINIA— Welcome everyone.  Thank you for being here today, Representative Capito and Representative McKinley.  Thanks also to the West Virginia High Tech Consortium -- Jim Estep and your staff.  Welcome also the many familiar faces in the audience and all West Virginians.  

We’re holding this hearing in the heart of a region experiencing tremendous opportunity as a result of shale gas development.  You are the experts – you know what’s working. And you know what it will take to guarantee West Virginia maximizes the full potential of this booming industry. Through the Commerce Committee, I’d like to look at the infrastructure needs we must meet to mobilize a rebirth of West Virginia manufacturing.

Every aspect of shale development presents us with both challenges and opportunities. In my experience, the only way to maximize opportunities over the long haul is to understand and tackle the challenges smartly. Whether highway issues or pipeline safety, if West Virginia gets it right up front – if we find and follow best practices, meet developers’ needs and address community concerns – future success knows no bounds. 

You probably saw evidence of shale development on your drive here today. The existence of this gas isn’t new, but the technology to access it economically is – and it is creating an economic boom with far-reaching impacts. 

I would like to discuss some of the key areas that reside around the perimeter of the drilling process.  These are larger infrastructure needs that are of equal importance to gas extraction itself.  They’re the areas that directly touch our communities and define our success. 

There are three main topics I’d like to talk about. 

I would like to first discuss roads and trucks.  I know the state and industry have worked together to address local road needs, and many are vigilant about repairs and safety. Road damage happens, but so do repairs and preventive maintenance.  I’d like to hear more about this process and what it means for transportation infrastructure and safety. 

Second, I want to talk about natural gas pipelines.  Gas development is happening across a broad region, and my Committee has an interest in the safety of pipelines – which vary in size and function.  We need to be vigilant in building and operating them to minimize impact on communities while assuring public safety.  I’d like to hear lessons learned, things working well, and what we need to do moving forward.

Third, I want to discuss infrastructure needs of manufacturers and chemical facilities that rely on shale gas, including the need for rail infrastructure to support the viable movement of goods to market and for export.  

Each of these three areas leads up to the creation of value-added products here at home. Part of that is the possibility of an ethane cracker, something many of us – the Governor, Legislature and congressional delegation – have been working to attract.

The processing of ethane to ethylene is a game-changer for jobs, especially those in manufacturing and chemical sectors. This potential manufacturing renaissance – growing out of the shale boom – could ripple positive effects across our state for years to come. 

So let me kick off our conversation. We are fortunate to have a diverse and knowledgeable set of participants.  I would like to go around the table and ask each of you to introduce yourself and, in 2 to 3 minutes, tell us the most important thing we should take away from this discussion. We will accept all written testimony into the official record, so we would love to hear your top points.  

After your statements, I’ll offer questions on our three main topics to the experts at hand. I may also ask others around the table to weigh in as well.  

So let’s get started.