CHARLESTON — U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin says a new bill he introduced in Congress this week could help spur development of the state’s energy sector.
Manchin, D-W.Va., stopped by West Virginia Roundtable Inc.’s membership meeting at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center on Monday afternoon to discuss the opportunity to create an Appalachian storage hub for natural gas.
“(The bill) would require the Department of Energy to examine the additional security benefits of an Appalachian storage hub,” Manchin said. “Simply that.”
In November 2018, the Department of Energy issued a report that predicted natural gas production is expected to more than double by 2050 and highlighted the potential to develop a gas storage hub in Appalachia, according to information distributed by Manchin’s staff.
The proposed underground storage hub for the Ohio Valley would keep more of the natural gas that West Virginia produces in the region. Proponents say the storage infrastructure could spur more economic development in West Virginia.
Manchin also praised an executive order that President Donald Trump signed last week, which is meant to promote development of the nation’s energy infrastructure.
A Department of Energy news release said the executive order requires Energy Secretary Rick Perry and others to develop a plan for how “to promote economic growth of the Appalachian region, including growth of petrochemical and other industries.”
“I’ll tell you how this all came about,” Manchin said at Monday’s meeting. “Rick Perry is an old friend of mine, and the president and I have a certain bond.”
Manchin, who was governor of West Virginia at the same time Perry was governor of Texas, said the two have a strong working relationship. Manchin believes that relationship will help encourage Perry to push for energy development in the Mountain State.
According to Manchin, Perry has examined weather models that show how damaging a Category 5 hurricane hitting Houston could be. Houston and the area around the Texas city are home to much of the nation’s petrochemical storage and processing facilities.
West Virginia’s geography would make it a great backup site for petrochemical facilities in an emergency, such as a hurricane hitting the Gulf Coast, Manchin said.
Manchin also touted his role as the ranking member on the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Energy and Natural Resources as a way to help the Mountain State.
“Usually the chairman and I sit down to basically decide what the agenda is going to be and how we’re going to go forward,” Manchin said. “Contrary to what you see on television, we’ve got to work together if you want to have something go forward.”
West Virginia Roundtable Inc. is a self-described non-partisan group comprised of nearly 70 members who are business leaders from across the state. Numerous chief executive officers and company presidents are members.
Manchin’s staff invited reporters to attend the meeting and hear the senator speak.
The senator spoke for about 20 minutes and addressed a range of issues, including energy issues, bills passed by the state Legislature and the need for more technical education in the local school system.
Before speaking to meeting participants, Manchin briefly addressed a group of reporters briefly. Manchin was asked about Gov. Jim Justice’s criticisms of him, as well as media reports that Justice is under federal investigation for the handling of his businesses.
“It’s a shame. It’s truly a shame, and it doesn’t fare well for our state. It’s not who I am,” Manchin said. “It’s not how we’ve governed. It’s never how I’ve been in public life, and I’m not that way in personal life. I just feel sorry for the governor.”
Manchin has said he is considering another run for governor, but he would not say if Justice’s attacks have swayed his decision one way or another.