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Tomblin sees bright future for energy

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin on Tuesday touted two recent development announcements as evidence West Virginia's energy economy is growing beyond just extracting natural resources from the ground.

Tomblin addressed energy industry leaders during the seventh annual state Energy Summit at the Charleston Town Center Marriott Tuesday.

During his lunchtime address, the governor said the recent investment announcements by Odebrecht, which evaluated construction of an ethylene cracker plant in Wood County, and Carbonyx International USA, which plans to build a synthetic coke plant in Jackson County, are key to building an economy that uses West Virginia resources in-state rather than shipping them elsewhere.

Tomblin said the economic effect of the Odebrecht plant alone could reshape the state's economy.

A recent American Chemistry Council report estimated building just a cracker plant, which would take natural gas and convert it into other usable chemical products, would amount to a $3.2 billion investment in the state.

The study estimated the cracker facility could lead to development of other plants using its product, resulting in up to $7 billion in additional chemical industry activity each year and up to 12,000 new jobs.

"It's thousands and thousands of new jobs for our kids -- kids who are sitting in classrooms right now wondering what their future is going to be like," Tomblin said. "It's billions of dollars of economic impact that will affect every aspect of our economy, from locally owned grocery stores to plastics manufacturers."

Tomblin said the Carbonyx plant, which will use a proprietary "clean-coal" technology to produce a more environmentally friendly replacement for traditional coke, which is used to make steel, could use up to an additional 1.75 million tons of West Virginia metallurgical coal each year.

Tomblin said officials estimate that additional coal demand could create or save up to 150 coal mining jobs and 650 other jobs at businesses tied to the coal industry.

"That's a great announcement," said Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association. "Particularly keeping it here in West Virginia is very important because right now we're sending coal to China and they're sending coke back to us."

Tomblin said the economic development announcements showed the future is still bright for the state's energy industry. He hopes the companies' decision to invest in the state will lead other companies to invest as well.

"Both of these companies -- Odebrecht and Carbonyx -- could have located anywhere in the world," Tomblin said. "These are huge victories for our state, and they demonstrate that we're making smart decisions about creating a pro-growth business climate in our state."

While Raney proposed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations targeting coal-fired power generation could affect domestic thermal coal consumption in the long run, he said improvements in economic growth could help the industry in 2014.

"We're optimistic," Raney said. "When the economy picks up, the demand picks up. So we look forward to that and hope it's going to happen."

Contact writer Jared Hunt at business@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-4836. 


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