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MARCELLUS SHALE JOBS & WAGES GREW IN 2013

As the development and production of oil and gas continues throughout the state of West Virginia, various residents actually are realizing some of the ancillary benefits associated with the extraction industry.These benefits, mostly economic and job related, are often sighted by pro-industry information as being one of the many upsides to the residents of states affected by heavy extraction efforts. A state report compared the statistics from 2012 and 2013 and provided some concrete evidence that this industry is, albeit slowly, helping to create jobs and bring money into West Virginia.

According to the report, the oil and gas industry created sixty-nine jobs for West Virginia residents in 2013. This number seems relatively low, but it is certainly moving in the right direction. Additionally, West Virginia oil and gas workers saw their salaries jump more than $2,400.00 in 2013. While the job growth is positive and the salary increases are certainly welcomed, the economic and job growth projections made by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have yet to be attained.

Workforce West Virginia, an agency funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, found that fewer than 2,500 residents were employed in the oil and gas industry by the spring of 2013. This number, compared with 20,000 employees in the coal fields during that same time, causes many people to wonder. Often the relatively new and complex nature of horizontal drilling is cited as the reason for the disparity in the numbers. Corky DeMarco, executive director of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association, said the disparity is due to “the evolution of the industry from conventional drilling to horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing."

His statement, from an economic standpoint, is relatively accurate. The complex nature of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing requires a special skill set. This skill set is of course learnable and obtainable, but out-of-state companies simply bring in their own crews of out-of-state workers who already have the necessary skills as opposed to spending the time and money to train in state workers. Additionally, the oil and gas drilling operators (the men and women who operate the drilling rig), typically travel around with one rig from well pad to well pad. This is simply the nature of the business.

With that being said, many West Virginia residents are finding work that supports the extraction industry. For instance, 1,100 people previously on unemployment were able to find jobs in the oil and gas industry in 2013, 600 of whom were new to the industry. Many of these jobs are involved with the industry tangentially. Water truck drivers, road crews, equipment operators, and welders are some of the jobs on this list. West Virginia is however making strides to train state residents so that they can compete for the higher paying jobs within the industry. “We are, as fast as we can, training workers to take those individuals’ places or come in as new hires,” she said.“We’re doing everything we can to have a homegrown workforce, it’s just going to take us a while to get those skill sets and those jobs filled by West Virginians,” said DeMarco.

Many West Virginia residents are focused on jobs and economic development related to the extraction industry. Additionally, many residents remain concerned about the long term environmental impact and safety issues surrounding the industry. The primary emphasis should always be on the safety of the workers and the preservation of the lakes, rivers, and streams of this great State. With those two foci as guiding principles, West Virginia residents and the extraction industry should more forward together for the benefit of this State and the world at large.