Editor’s Note: Through May 4, The Register-Herald will publish a daily story featuring in-depth interviews we conducted with candidates seeking the office of governor of West Virginia. Each of the 16 people who filed were issued an invitation to appear before our editorial board, and 14 of those came to Beckley to meet with us and discuss some of the key issues in West Virginia. The stories will appear in the order in which the candidates were interviewed. Today’s story focuses on Republican candidate Betty Ireland, of Charleston.
1 — It certainly appears that Marcellus shale regulation will remain a major topic of interest for the next several years. What are the key features that you see that need to be included in West Virginia law to best serve the interests of all the parties involved?
I was very disappointed when the Legislature, the leadership, was not able to finish up a bill regarding Marcellus shale regulations. It is a wonderful opportunity for West Virginia, the exploration of the Marcellus shale, for many reasons. We want to certainly take charge of that to help West Virginia’s economic situation. But we want to make sure that our landowners, that our mineral owners, their property is protected, that our communities are protected so that their water supply not only is not depleted but it’s not left in a situation that it’s not usable. We want to make sure that we preserve our water supply. We want to make sure — you know, roads get pretty beat up during the Marcellus drilling process. And we want to make sure those roads get put back together, maybe in better shape than they were. That means we all need to know the rules up front, and this is a perfect time to do this because we’re really at the beginning of this process, although I think probably 2,400 wells already have been drilled.
We’re really at the beginning of this process. And so everybody knows the rules. The corporations, the producers, the drillers, the state, the DEP, the landowners... If everybody knows what the rules are, we can really plan, and we can certainly agree that we know what we’re in it for. We want to be fair to the drillers and the producers so they can make a profit. We want to make sure the state gets a piece of that, certainly. And we want to make sure that our citizens are taken care of regarding their property and the environmental needs. One thing that I think we definitely need to look at regarding Marcellus shale is downstream product, rather than just looking at the drilling and all the ancillary businesses that come from that and the employment on those rigs, rather than just sending all that gas down to the gulf.
There are downstream products that we can use. Marcellus gas is high in methane-ethane. If we take that ethane out and convert it into say ethylene oxide and use that as a basis for plastics — I would love to see our use of that to expand the chemical industry. I work at Matric Mid-Atlantic Technical Resource Innovation Center. We have scientists who work on that every single day. I know the potential of what we can extract as downstream products from the Marcellus gas. I think it’s a wonderful way to expand industry, particularly the chemical industry in West Virginia, and also to have our employees, who work here in West Virginia, be skilled in technical research, for instance, chemical lab techs or drilling techs, some way we can put them to work, not only on the rigs, but also in these ancillary businesses that spin off as downstream products. We have talked to major producers. They’re very, very interested in this.