Guest Essays, Letters to the Editor, Opinion

Guest essay: Here’s how we grow West Virginia’s economy

by Stephanie Catarino Wissman and Charlie Burd


From its early beginnings in 1860, West Virginia’s oil and gas industry has generated extraordinary job and economic growth. 

Today, West Virginia is still a leader in natural gas and oil production, proving smart energy policies can help encourage energy and infrastructure development. 

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, West Virginia is the nation’s fourth-largest energy producer and the fourth-largest producer of marketed natural gas. The Mountain State sits atop the prolific Marcellus and Utica shale formations, which account for about 95% of the state’s natural gas production. 

In 2021, West Virginia produced nearly 2.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas — about 10 times more than in 2010. 

West Virginia has become an energy powerhouse, generating thousands of good jobs, millions annually in tax revenues, severance tax collections, royalties for landowners and indirect economic benefits at the local level. 

But keeping West Virginia on the right track as a top energy producer requires policies that attract investment and keep the state competitive. And that means policies supporting additional pipeline capacity. 

Today, however, it takes more time to secure all of the permits for a project than to build one. 

Protracted reviews, excessive litigation and burdensome red tape have led to the delay or cancellation of several key energy infrastructure projects in the U.S. 

One critical infrastructure project that has been delayed is the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) project, which spans 303 miles between West Virginia and Virginia. 

The MVP was announced in 2014. Opponents have filed repeated legal challenges to block this important project and they continue to do so, despite work on the MVP being nearly complete. Once the current permitting issues are resolved and the remaining work is finished, this interstate pipeline will transport a vast supply of natural gas from West Virginia to meet the energy needs of homes and businesses across the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic regions.  

In addition to creating approximately 3,700 construction jobs in West Virginia, the MVP will strengthen our nation’s energy security and improve public access to safe and reliable natural gas. It’s also expected to generate an estimated $35 million annually in West Virginia property taxes, which can help support core government services like education and public safety. 

Critical infrastructure projects like MVP are essential for reliably delivering energy to consumers, as well as supporting U.S. national security. Developing our domestic energy resources helps to reduce reliance on foreign regimes that may be hostile to American interests. 

As a recent analysis shows, 10 major energy infrastructure projects across the U.S., representing more than $34 billion in private spending, have been postponed or canceled because of prolonged permitting review processes. This includes four natural gas projects in Appalachia, including MVP, that could support 4.6 billion cubic feet per day of production needed by families and businesses, while also supporting thousands of jobs and generating $19 billion in private spending for regional economies. 

Producing more natural gas and oil means little if sufficient infrastructure isn’t in place to deliver it to markets and consumers. Pipelines are the safest, most efficient way to move energy, operating around the clock daily. 

Energy infrastructure is also critical for hydrogen and carbon capture technologies. 

West Virginia has a unique opportunity to leverage its abundant natural gas supply and advance the development of hydrogen technologies. 

Under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the Regional Clean Hydrogen Hub program was created to allocate up to $7 billion to establish six to 10 regional hubs across the U.S. Two of the hubs must be located in regions with significant natural gas reserves, like Appalachia. And an estimated 700,000 jobs could be generated nationally around this emerging industry by 2030, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. 

West Virginia’s energy sector is poised for unprecedented growth. With the right policies that enable investment and innovation, we can build a stronger economy and bolster American energy security. 

Stephanie Catarino Wissman is the executive director of the American Petroleum Institute Pennsylvania, Appalachia Region. Charlie Burd is the executive director of the Gas and Oil Association of West Virginia.