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The Appalachian Basin's three leading oil and gas producing states have signed a three-year cooperative agreement aimed at creating policies that would promote the region's prolific shale plays to help generate more economic opportunities.
Leaders from Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, noting the astounding natural gas production of the Marcellus and Utica shales in recent years, signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on Tuesday at the first ever Tri-State Shale Summit in Morgantown, WV.
The summit was organized by three regional economic development organizations to bring together government, industry and nonprofits on more ways to build the area's revived energy sector. West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, Ohio Lieutenant Gov. Mary Taylor and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf pledged to continue that work by entering into the agreement.
"The participants recognize that in order to truly prosper from these vast resources, the tri-state region should, in an environmentally sound manner, support all streams of the development process with a particular focus on adding value to the natural gas and natural gas liquids located in the Appalachian Basin within the region," the MOU said.
The states would work collaboratively on four primary areas of cooperation: marketing and promotion, workforce development, transportation and infrastructure and academic research.
"The participants intend to work together to support activities that will spur investment in expanding transportation systems to facilitate demand, use and delivery of natural and natural gas liquids while assuring natural resource protection," the agreement said.
In a joint statement, the economic development groups that organized the summit, including the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, Team Northeast Ohio and Vision Shared, called the agreement "unprecedented." A cooperative path toward embracing the economic opportunities of shale resources would be a sharp deviation from years past, when all three states competed fiercely with legislation, economic incentives and sales pitches to attract ethane crackers, supply chain companies and more manufacturers that are utilizing natural gas.
"We must work together to ensure our region has the skilled workforce necessary to fill jobs and attract new employers," Wolf said. "The demand for workers by the energy industry and off-shoot industries, especially manufacturing, is high and still growing."
Tomblin added that "as technology continues to pave the way for new opportunities and create good paying jobs for hard working West Virginians, we are also working to support new investors and downstream industry partners who want to locate and invest in our region and our state's workforce."
According to the agreement, the states plan to cooperate by sharing information; organizing future seminars and workshops like the Tri-State Shale Summit; collaborating on policies and programs and working on the best practices for emergency response protocols, among several other things. Those efforts would be funded individually by each state.
In order to begin working effectively together, the states plan to develop a cooperative action plan. The states would form working groups to draw up the plan. The agreement is expected to be renewed annually through December 2018.