By Sarah Plummer
Marcellus Shale is the new kid on the block in West Virginia’s economy, and already he’s proving his mettle as an economic booster.
Six core industries that are related directly to oil and gas development in the state have shown a dramatic increase in job creation since Marcellus exploration began five years ago, lawmakers learned Monday.
Jeff Green, director of the research, information and analysis division for WorkForce West Virginia, provided an update during an interims meeting of the Legislative Oversight Commission on Education Accountability.
As attention has ratcheted up on the fledgling industry, Green said many have wondered if it has shown the promise of helping the economy by providing new jobs.
“The quick answer is, yes,” Green said.
Green pointed to an upsurge in recent years in the use of natural gas to fire electricity-producing plants.
“What we’re seeing is a fundamental shift in how this country generates electric power,” he said.
“There’s a larger and larger share going to natural gas powered plants.”
Green said his division examined employment spawned by Marcellus Shale drill-ing from the time the development began in 2008 through 2011, the last full year when data was available.
“We looked at six core industries that are related directly to oil and gas development in West Virginia,” he said.
“What we found was an increase in employment about 9.5 percent statewide.”
Most of the job activity is occurring in WorkForce Area 6, engulfing Monongalia, Preston, and Marion counties — the north-central region where such exploration is high.
“That area accounts for 40 percent of all the activity in Marcellus development currently,” Green said.
Green said jobs run the gamut from welders to engineers.
“There are some pretty good wages, from $27,000 as a roustabout upward to $91,000 for engineers,” he told the legislative panel.
The median wages being paid are in the mid-$40,000, he added.
Marcellus emerged as such a potential economic giant that lawmakers used a special session two winters ago to write a regulatory bill to govern how the gas is drilled with attempts to protect landowners and public water supplies, although some critics felt the new law fell short of meeting those goals.
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