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Shale creates jobs here

Unless you've visited north-central West Virginia or the Northern Panhandle recently, you may not have seen many signs of the natural gas boom in the Utica and Marcellus shale.

But the boom is impacting employment, even here. A case in point: NiSource.

The company's Columbia Gas Transmission subsidiary has an extensive pipeline network throughout West Virginia, eastern Ohio and southwest Pennsylvania. That's smack in the middle of the Marcellus Shale and includes a swath of the Utica Shale.

Another NiSource subsidiary, Columbia Gulf Transmission, transports natural gas from the Gulf of Mexico and Louisiana through West Virginia to markets on the East Coast.

Both transmission companies have major operations at 1700 MacCorkle Ave. S.E. in Charleston, next to Frontier Communications' regional headquarters.

Karl Brack, NiSource's vice president of communications and engagement strategies, said the company has added about 50 jobs in the Charleston area in the last two years, mostly as a result of the shale gas boom.

NiSource now has a total of 590 employees in West Virginia, Brack said.

The outlook for the creation of more jobs is positive. The company has proposed a long-term plan that would invest $300 million a year in system improvements to ensure the safe and reliable transportation of natural gas.

NiSource has estimated that a total of 7,000 jobs would be created across its system as a result of the program.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which regulates the industry, is expected to issue a decision on the proposal by the end of the year.

***

The more than $370 million in damages in West Virginia caused by the June 29 derecho and Superstorm Sandy seems enormous until compared to the damage Sandy caused in the northeast.

Sandy cost the Long Island Power Authority an estimated $800 million, a company executive told The Wall Street Journal. The authority is just one of numerous utilities that provide electricity to the New York City region.

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Sunday's column quoted Tom Jones, president and chief executive officer of West Virginia United Healthcare System, as saying, "West Virginia is the only state that regulates the rates of hospitals. I think if it worked, you would see other states doing it."

That prompted a reader to write, "When quoting Tom Jones you stated that West Virginia is the only state that regulates hospital rates. Sweeping statements like that scare me. A quick Google search revealed that Maryland has regulated rates since 1977 and I am sure other states do likewise."

I emailed Jones to ask if I had misquoted him.

"You did not misquote me," Jones replied. "The only other state that does regulate is Maryland. However, they have a special federal exemption that no one else can get and they set rates for every payer including Medicare, Medicaid and the state insurance program. All pay the same and there is no cost shifting. West Virginia only regulates commercial payers and there is no other state that does that to my knowledge."

 


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