Harmon said the abundance of natural gas in the Appalachian Basin is "a wonderful thing" and "it has changed our community and state in a lot of different ways."
The state is looking to recoup severance taxes on natural gas to make up for declining severance tax revenues generated by coal. Also, "there's been a shift in employment and location," as the center of natural gas production in the region has moved from Charleston to Pittsburgh, Pa., Harmon said.
In addition, the multi-million dollar cost to drill horizontal wells with hydraulic fracturing "has made the small family producer a thing of the past," he said.
Also, development of the natural gas in the Marcellus Shale has resulted in the industrialization of some rural areas.
"The industry is working hard to mitigate that," Harmon said. "We have a job ahead of us but we are making strides. It is a great growth industry — something West Virginia doesn't have enough of."
Harmon's company has invested in a company that focuses on using liquid propane as a fuel. Liquid propane isn't stored under nearly as much pressure as compressed natural gas and a liquid propane fueling station costs about $40,000, compared to $1 million or more for a compressed natural gas fueling station, he said.
"We're also invested in a company that blends propane into diesel engines," he said. "I think if we look at all of the fuels and their right use, we have a lot of options."
Anderson said that in 2005, people knew there was natural gas in the Marcellus Shale but nobody knew how to economically extract it.
"Now it's the largest gas-producing shale in the country," she said.
Asked about challenges facing alternative fuels, Meadows said the cost of conversion kits is an issue. Mattox said the payback time for conversions could be an issue.
Harmon said West Virginians must find a way to add value to natural gas and related products.
"Just exporting is not going to create the really good jobs," he said. "The governor has the Marcellus-to-Manufacturing Task Force looking at this. We have to find a way to rebuild our chemical processing industry."
Concerns have been raised about the impact new drilling techniques have on water quality. Harmon noted that New York has a moratorium on drilling and the industry there has been shut down for nearly five years.
Anderson said, "The industry does listen and evolve and react to concerns."