W.Va. oil and gas workers rally at Capitol steps to support energy workers

Published: Mar. 21, 2017 at 2:06 PM EDT
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Nearly 1,000 West Virginia oil and gas workers and advocates gathered on the state Capitol steps Tuesday morning to rally in support of the tens of thousands of hard-working men and women who contribute to the state’s oil and gas economy.

Busloads of workers from across the state joined with industry leaders and a bipartisan coalition of elected officials to raise a collective voice of support for an industry that can fuel the state’s future. They called on lawmakers to act quickly in enacting critical policies that generate more local job creation and that spur needed economic development.

“We hear the message you are relaying to us today,” said West Virginia House Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, who joined Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, to praise the work of industry employees.

“This is an important issue not only for West Virginia but for the world,” Carmichael told cheering workers who filled the south steps of the Capitol.

Action on proposals pending before lawmakers would allow the state’s oil and natural gas companies to increase production and deliver benefits to more communities. Gov. Jim Justice noted how important that is to moving West Virginia forward.

“We need to develop this resource that God has given us in West Virginia to create thousands of jobs and do lots and lots of goodness,” Justice told the crowd. “I’m willing to stand right with you.”

The oil and natural gas industry has invested more than $10 billion in West Virginia since shale development began accelerating eight years ago. The tens-of-thousands of men and women directly and indirectly employed by the industry have helped make West Virginia the country’s No. 4 energy producing state.

“I want to see all our communities thrive. I want to see the state thrive. And the oil and gas industry is an economic engine to help make this a reality,” said Sarah Smith, executive vice president of SLS Land & Energy Development in Gilmer County, one of several local business owners engaged with the industry who spoke at the rally.

Those business owners, manufacturing leaders, and industry advocates called on lawmakers to make energy jobs and increased natural gas development a priority during this legislative session and for years to come.

"Oil and gas policy is important, energy jobs are important and West Virginia’s future is important," said Maribeth Anderson, president of the West Virginia Oil & Natural Gas Association.