Oct 27 2011
Thank you for inviting me today.
All of us in this room know that the Marcellus Shale could truly be a game-changer for our great state, and so it is an honor to speak to you tonight about how we can work together to take advantage of this opportunity to produce energy right here in America and start to create good-paying jobs for hard-working Americans.
Before I begin, though, I would like to thank Bill Hutchens and Joyce McConnell for those kind introductions, as well as Professor James VanNostrand for all of his hard work on this issue and the Center for Energy and Sustainable Development for hosting this important conference. I am so pleased to be here for your first event, and I look forward to many more.
For the past week, I’ve been traveling across West Virginia to talk to the people of this great state about Commonsense Ideas for a Stronger America.
In all my conversations, it was so clear that people are sick and tired of Washington’s political games and all they want is for their elected leaders to put politics aside and focus on what matters: jobs.
They know that our great country is at a crossroads. Our economy is struggling, job growth is anemic, and the economic outlook is weak.
And with this nation’s jobs crisis on the top of most Americans’ minds right now, we must not forget how closely our economy is tied to this country’s dependence on foreign oil.
So there is no question: with the Marcellus Shale, our state has a great opportunity to do two critical things at once: create jobs both now and into the future and advance our goal of achieving energy independence.
For the sake of our nation's future, we must make fundamental changes if we are to grow our economy, create good jobs, and make America stronger.
Think about this.
In 1972, America was 28 percent dependent on foreign oil, which seemed like an enormous number at that time. But today, we are more than 50 percent dependent. That makes no sense.
Over the last four decades, America has witnessed the largest transfer of wealth from our country to other nations – all because we have failed to achieve energy independence.
Imagine what we could have built with that wealth. That is money that should have been invested in rebuilding America, not building nations who do not share our interests or our values.
Now more than ever, it is time to for America to declare its energy independence.
Let me be clear, this isn't about saying the words, it’s about taking concrete steps necessary to make this nation truly energy independent.
For the sake of our economy, for our jobs, for our nation’s future, now is the time to work together, Democrats and Republicans, and chart a new course that will free America – once and for all – from our energy dependence on countries that not only do harm to our economy, but also wish to do us harm as a nation.
Energy independence is not only good for America's long-term security, it will also help create good jobs now. Jobs that can't be outsourced. Jobs that can support a family and will help build towns and cities all across this nation.
With our nation facing such a serious jobs crisis, we must choose policies that not only work, but put Americans back to work.
And we must move forward with developing the Marcellus Shale in a responsible way that creates jobs and makes us more energy independent.
A real plan for energy independence for America must use all of our domestic resources – oil, coal, natural gas, geothermal, nuclear, biomass, wind, solar, hydro – anything and everything we’ve got.
We need an energy policy where the government doesn’t pick winners and losers. We need an energy policy where government bureaucrats stop fighting for what doesn’t work and start fighting for what does.
Unfortunately, that is not what we see today.
We see government bureaucrats tilting the scales and giving a solar energy company a half-billion-dollar guaranteed loan – even when they knew the company was in trouble.
We see the EPA pass more and more regulations that are paralyzing investment, raising costs, and killing jobs.
We see an Administration that demonizes coal and other fossil resources, ignoring the fact that these are the fuels that have always powered this nation, and that right now, we have nothing to take their place.
That is a real problem for a state like West Virginia, a state that not only produces a great deal of coal but is rich in natural gas resources like the Marcellus Shale.
Sometimes it seems like this Administration is trying to wipe our little state off the map, while ignoring our contribution to this nation’s energy resources.
Not only is this Administration ignoring the fact that coal built this nation – and provides nearly half of our electricity – they are missing the tremendous potential of the shale resources in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio and the rest of our region. They’re so determined to demonize fossil fuels that they ignore the vast, untapped resources waiting to be developed right here at home, which could reduce this nation’s dependence on foreign oil and create good-paying, American jobs.
Let me be clear – I have always said that we must seek a balance between our environmental concerns and our economic considerations. If we are going to develop our natural gas resources – and I believe we must – then we have to ensure that processes like fracking do not do catastrophic harm to our natural environment. We have a responsibility to our children to ensure that our air is clean, our water is clear and that our environment is no worse off than the way we found it.
In West Virginia, although our state legislature has not yet reached consensus on how we can best balance the potential of the Marcellus Shale with the concerns that residents have raised about its environmental effects – I know that our state won’t let this opportunity go by.
I know our state lawmakers have been hard at work trying to determine how to take advantage economic potential of the Marcellus Shale to work while also making sure we’ve put adequate protections in place for our environment and property owners.
We’ve got a lot of work to do, and it’s got to be done the right way.
In fact, I have heard these environmental concerns from many of my constituents at town hall meetings across the state, and I share it.
It was not too long ago that a very well-known company visited my office to discuss the potential of Marcellus Shale, but would not tell me the type of chemicals they planned to use in the ground. They would not tell me what they were putting into the ground – or make any kind of guarantee about the safety of these chemicals.
And I told them: You can’t expect West Virginians to trust you if you won’t even tell them the God’s-honest truth about what you’re putting in their land.
But you can expect West Virginians to be the best partners you’ll ever have, who will work with you to extract the resource and find solutions instead of creating roadblocks.
When it comes to the potential of the Marcellus Shale, I really do believe in complete transparency. We need to put our faith in companies that have proven their reliability and responsibility.
We need a regulatory framework in place – driven by the state – to effectively extract the natural gas and to attract the billion dollar ethane cracker plants for natural gas production – and the jobs that they would bring to West Virginia.
I know that officials in our state are working hard to bring those cracker projects here. They estimate that West Virginia could expect more than 2,300 direct jobs from construction of a cracker plant to convert ethane, which is a by-product of Marcellus drilling, into ethylene – a chemical which is used as stock feed in the chemical industry. Business’ investment in the plants themselves would be at least $1.5 to $2 billion. That’s a serious investment.
The folks at the American Chemical Council have even more detailed projections: that about $3.2 billion would also be invested in the downstream chemical facilities that would make products like dyes, paints, coatings and plastics. And wait for this figure: that investment would generate $7 billion in additional chemical industry output in West Virginia. The council also estimates that about 12,000 jobs would be created in the chemical industry and throughout the supply chain in West Virginia, moving West Virginia from the 23rd largest chemical producing state to the 13th largest.
I understand that there are two key elements essential to choosing the location for a cracker facility: a guaranteed supply of ethane and ethane at the right price. And the EPA could have a major effect on those factors – potentially preventing our ability to take advantage of this tremendous development potential.
Marcellus is making a big difference to our neighbors in this region already. Just recently, I read a story about our neighbors in Steubenville, Ohio – a town whose unemployment rate reached 15 percent in 2010. An old steel town – just like many of our towns in West Virginia.
The potential of the Marcellus Shale is really changing things for Steubenville. According reports, more than 300 new jobs have already come to Steubenville, and as many as 10,000 more are expected to come in the next three years as the development of Marcellus continues.
And I have visited some of our local schools that are already offering new courses to prepare our students right here at home for the jobs of the future – jobs tied to the Marcellus Shale and the extraction of natural gas to power this nation.
These are the types of developments I have always hoped to see in America. The development of our own resources. The education and reeducation of our students for good-paying jobs that will help power this nation. We are sitting on top of incredible potential.
That is why our state legislators need to continue their important work to ensure that West Virginia gets the opportunity to reap the benefits of Marcellus.
I can tell you that our Marcellus Manufacturing Task Force makes West Virginia the most proactive state in terms of being able utilize this resource effectively and safely, and WVU has the tools to support this industry with the engineering school and the knowledge base there.
I truly believe that our state should be given the opportunity to regulate this resource themselves. States know the needs of their people best – and I do not believe that federal regulators should step in here unless the states fail to do their jobs. We do not need the EPA regulating how we move forward on the Marcellus Shale before the states have the opportunity themselves – but just last week, the EPA announced that they would start developing the standards for wastewater disposal, proposing regulations for both coalbed methane and shale gas. In addition, we will soon have to face a new set of EPA rules governing air emissions for oil and gas production. While the EPA has delayed the release of the final rule on these standards by about 30 days, we can expect to see them near the beginning of next spring.
I would caution the EPA: more overreach is the last thing we need.
If the standards they develop are anything like what we’ve seen out of the EPA under this Administration, we have reason to fear that they will overregulate our natural gas production here in West Virginia, create uncertainty in the industry, and make it difficult for us to move forward on a very promising resource.
I do hope the EPA proves me wrong.
I hope that the EPA will work as a partner with our state Department of Environmental Protection, which already has air and water quality rules that the gas and oil industries are required to meet.
And my message to our state regulatory agencies and our state legislators would be: do not miss this opportunity. Do not miss out on the potential that lies in the Marcellus not only for energy – but also for job creation and economic development and the rebirth of a region.
But, Marcellus – developed in a way that truly balances our economy with the environment – even though it could be a game-changer, will not cure this nation’s dependence on foreign oil all on its own.
We all know that West Virginia is a proud coal-producing state with an abundance of natural gas from the Marcellus Shale. What you might not know is we also have the largest wind farm east of the Mississippi.
That’s not all. West Virginia is the second-most forested state in the lower 48, and we’ve got biomass crops currently being test-grown right here to be used for bio-degradable plastics.
We’ve been using all our resources for a long time. We also have some of the oldest hydropower facilities in the nation, two of which are more than a century old.
So in West Virginia, we are doing everything we possibly can to use everything we’ve got.
As Governor, I took the first-ever inventory of all of West Virginia’s energy resources and was surprised to find that we – in our energy-rich state – start relying on foreign oil beginning in May of every year.
Every state should know how dependent they are, and every state has the resources – whether it’s natural gas, biomass, wind, solar, hydro, nuclear – to help America achieve energy independence and we must use them all as responsibly as we can to make our nation stronger.
In my role as U.S. Senator, I’ve sponsored or cosponsored commonsense legislation that I believe will help get us on the path to energy independence.
I am a cosponsor of the American Alternative Fuels Act of 2011 with my colleague John Barrasso from Wyoming. This bill would break down barriers to alternative energy fuels, including fuel that comes from coal, biomass, algae and waste – and it would allow the federal government to start using those fuels.
We’re talking about the fuels that would come from a facility like the coal-to-liquid plant we broke ground on in Mingo County last May.
It is expected to convert 7,500 tons of West Virginia coal into 756,000 gallons of premium gasoline each day, which can be used to run our cars and trucks – and even some of our military equipment.
Over a four-year construction period, it is estimated that 3,000 skilled trade workers will be employed. When the plant is finished, it is expected to create 300 direct, full-time jobs with hundreds of additional indirect jobs.
This is the type of economic growth and energy production we can achieve when government acts as a partner, not an obstacle, as I hope it will when it comes to the development of our natural gas resources.
I have also cosponsored the REINS ACT – to rein in out-of-control agencies like the EPA and require Congressional approval for any law, rule or regulation that costs our economy 100 million dollars or more.
As you can tell, I don’t believe the federal government should be regulating what has not been legislated.
Coming down the pike, we’ve got more rules to worry about – on top of what the EPA does with the Marcellus Shale. Proposed mercury and acid gas rules could cost the electric-power sector between 10 and 11 billion dollars a year and could jeopardize 250,000 jobs over three years if the industry does not get an adequate amount of time to comply with new rules.
The EPA’s Cross State Air Pollution Rule – also known as the Transport Rule – will be one of the most expensive rules ever imposed on coal-fired plants, and will increase electricity rates on American families and businesses.
And we’ve got the Utility MACT rule to contend with, which according to National Economic Research Associates (NERA) will result in thousands of lost jobs. According to NERA, these two regulations would increase electricity rates by more than 23 percent in some areas of the country that rely on coal for electricity. That sounds like West Virginia to me.
I guess it’s fair to say that I think the EPA and overregulation is a serious problem to our economy and our nation.
Looking ahead, these EPA rules, these regulatory hurdles, paint a pretty clear picture of the challenges standing in America’s way as we work to achieve energy independence and create good-paying jobs here at home.
And instead of coming together around commonsense ideas, Washington has become too partisan, too divided and too dysfunctional. While there are some of us in Congress willing to work together and develop commonsense solutions, it seems like leaders of both parties are better at playing the blame game than solving problems.
As every Governor knows, that's not how you get things done. I never fixed a thing by blaming someone else.
For the sake of the nation, we've got too worry less about the next election, and worry more about the next generation.
I hope that when it comes to the immense potential of the Marcellus Shale, our state lawmakers and regulators will be able to make meaningful progress before Washington gets in the way.
I hope that all of you in this room will encourage lawmakers – both at the state and federal level – to work together and unite behind the common purpose of making this state and this nation stronger.
And that’s why it's time to develop a commonsense energy plan that utilizes all of America’s vast natural and renewable resources, but does so in a safe and responsible way.
It's time to move this nation forward and achieve what I know we can – energy independence within this generation.
It is a goal I believe in, and it is the goal I will fight for, and with your help we will declare our energy independence once and for all.
Thank you, God bless you and God bless the United States of America.