West Virginia has been accepted as the 14th member of the Energy Council, an international nonpartisan legislative organization whose members are focused on a wide variety of energy-related issues.

At its recent meeting in Oklahoma City the council voted unanimously to admit West Virginia, where shale gas development has pushed annual production well above 1 Tcf.

“Membership with the Energy Council is an important development for our state because it will give West Virginia lawmakers additional resources and a focused network to create and promote policies that encourage development of our state’s energy industry,” said state House Delegate Mark Zatezalo, who attended the meeting and announced the state’s membership.

Zatezalo, a Republican, represents Hancock County and parts of Brooke County in West Virginia’s northern panhandle near heavily drilled parts of the state and just south of the Utica Shale’s epicenter in Ohio and west of Marcellus Shale activity in Pennsylvania.

The council was formed in 1975 to provide a forum for member legislators to discuss and learn more about energy and environmental issues in their states and provinces. A policy statement was adopted at the Oklahoma City meeting dedicated to promoting the build out of a natural gas liquids (NGL) storage and trading hub in West Virginia. It urges federal policy makers to support the state’s efforts to develop the hub and strengthen Marcellus and Utica shale development in the state and region.

Proponents of an NGL storage hub want to link up Appalachian shale formations with a network of pipelines, equipment and underground storage. The hub, supporters say, could ease supply and demand imbalances and help create more regional buyers and sellers of the commodities, similar to the largest one in the country in Mont Belvieu, TX, which sits on a shallow salt dome used to store products. The Energy Council’s policy statement is the latest bit of support for the concept, which continues to evolve slowly.

Both the public and private sectors continue to promote the idea. Senators from West Virginia and Ohio have introduced legislation to study the feasibility of the hub, while studies have shown such infrastructure could generate billions of dollars in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

For now, two projects are underway. Mountaineer NGL Storage LLC is working with state regulators in Ohio to build a 3.5 million bbl underground storage facility at a site in Monroe County, but the project has faced delays as it works through permitting snags. In West Virginia, the Appalachia Development Group has been invited by the U.S. Department of Energy to submit a Part II application for a $1.9 billion loan guarantee for a similar underground storage project.

The Appalachian Basin is home to abundant natural gas storage. It’s long been a staging area to move gas to the Northeast. But there are few NGL storage and pipeline facilities.

Former Energy Council chairmen Wyoming Senate President Eli Bebout and Oklahoma state Rep. Weldon Watson made motions to admit West Virginia as a member. Other members include Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas and Wyoming. The Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan are also members.