Energy industry leaders, DEP members speak about experiences, WV - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Energy industry leaders, DEP members speak about experiences, WV future, water crisis at Business Summit

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Randy Huffman, cabinet secretary of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, speaking at the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce Business Summit on Aug. 27 Randy Huffman, cabinet secretary of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, speaking at the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce Business Summit on Aug. 27
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  • Many WV coal counties losing revenue

    Many WV coal counties losing revenue

    Monday, August 8 2016 10:15 AM EDT2016-08-08 14:15:05 GMT

    As Appalachian coal production continues its drastic decline, West Virginia’s coal-producing counties are  not only losing people as lifelong residents are forced to flee their homes in order to find work, but in many cases, they’re also relinquishing millions of dollars from their budgets.

    As Appalachian coal production continues its drastic decline, West Virginia’s coal-producing counties are  not only losing people as lifelong residents are forced to flee their homes in order to find work, but in many cases, they’re also relinquishing millions of dollars from their budgets.

During a breakout session titled Energy and the Environment at the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce Business Summit Aug. 27, a small group of attendees listened to various industry leaders and lawmakers speak about their experiences in the industry.

The first to speak was David Peebles, vice president of ASCENT, who touched on the company's goals moving forward. In particular, he addressed the company's five keys to maintaining sustainable business practices: economic development, job creation, environmental balance, respect for culture, civic participation in public policy.

“We will try to have best practices,” Peebles said, “that's our commitment.”

ASCENT, an abbreviation of Appalachian Shale Cracker Enterprise, is a planned complex, announced in November 2013, which would include an ethane cracker plant, three polyethylene plants and associated infrastructure for water treatment and energy cogeneration in Wood County. The project is being operated by Brazil-based Odebrecht.

Frank Macchiarola, executive vice president of America's Natural Gas Alliance, followed Peebles with his own presentation, which focused heavily on America's potential as a global energy leader.

“America has undergone rapid transformation from energy scarcity to energy abundance,” Macchiarola said.

“The U.S. is now the world's largest producer of natural gas,” he said, adding that the Marcellus Shale basin is now the largest gas field in the United States.

Macchiarola continued to say he continually is asked if there is enough domestic supply of natural gas in the United States to meet future demand, to which he responded simply, “Yes, we do.”

“The bottom line is we have the gas — more than enough — to power economic growth and create a robust export policy,” he said.

However, he also addressed issues that need to be addressed to keep the momentum moving forward, such as enhancing the nation's pipeline and storage system, pushing for a diverse fuel mix and creating a “robust” LNG export policy.

Following the presentations, West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection Cabinet Secretary Randy Huffman and DEP Division of Waste and Water Management Director Scott Mandirola addressed lessons learned and actions moving forward after the Jan. 9 Freedom Industries chemical leak into the Elk River.

Huffman said one issue his department faced was that of losing public trust, which he said came largely as a result of misinformation being delivered to them and then passed along to the public.

“No one knew what to believe; it became a very frustrating situation,” he said, adding, “There's a balance between getting the information out as soon as you can and being right.”

Following the leak, Huffman said the DEP also realized the issue of under-regulation.

“It became obvious to us that we have a lot of tanks out there,” Huffman said, “and a lot of tanks need a little more than we had, as far as regulation is concerned.”

Huffman continued to say that there are a lot of tanks holding high amounts of chemicals near public water intakes, which he called a “very risky situation.”

Moving forward, Huffman and Mandirola said they were in the process of drafting a rule for storage tank owners in order to keep health and environmental disasters from occurring while also taking into consideration exclusions and various levels of potential risk.

“We're going to make rule public for public digestion very soon,” Huffman said.

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