WHEELING — West Virginia – and the rest of the U.S. – is in need of bipartisan progress and a sensible, rational process on energy issues, including pipeline projects, key political, business and labor leaders said in a discussion today about energy issues and the importance of responsible energy development at Consumer Energy Alliance’s (CEA) West Virginia Energy and Manufacturing Forum, in Wheeling.

The event is the third in a series of energy and manufacturing events this year that have brought together public officials, business and labor leaders and stakeholders to share their perspectives on energy policy in the context of jobs, the economy and U.S. competitiveness and their visions for the future of West Virginia energy.
Speakers at the Wheeling forum included:

• West Virginia Gubernatorial Candidate Sen. Bill Cole
• U.S. Representative David McKinley
• George Stark, Director of External Affairs for Cabot Oil and Gas
• Bob Orndorff, Senior Policy Advisor, State & Local Affairs for Dominion
• Toby Mack, President and CEO of Energy Equipment and Infrastructure Alliance
• Brian Joseph, CEO of Touchstone Research Laboratory
• Derrick Williamson, West Virginia Energy Users
• Steve White, West Virginia State Building and Construction Trade Council
• Justin Gray, Business Manager, LiUNA Local 1149
• Kyle Brown, President, Upper Ohio Valley Building Trades Council.

In regards to the need for energy policy leadership and opportunities for progress, Sen. Cole said that “West Virginia needs a full-time leader who will fight against unreasonable regulations and bureaucrats in Charleston and Washington so that we can use our God-given natural resources to help all of our families and businesses.”

“I will work every day to build the jobs, economic benefits and prosperity with energy development that West Virginia needs,” Cole added.

Representative David McKinley agreed, saying, “Our nation needs a national energy policy, one that transcends partisan politics and includes all energy sources. We should incentivize the development of a 21st century energy infrastructure, increase funding for fossil energy research, and commercialize the work of our laboratories.”

“Just imagine what kind of progress we could have made on fossil fuel technology and our energy infrastructure over the last eight years if we had been focused on this all along,” McKinley added. “It is time to reassert our global leadership in energy production.”

White and Williamson, meanwhile, discussed the enormous opportunities ahead for future energy projects – if politics doesn’t get in the way of progress.

“We’re tired of the politics; we want to build projects. We can’t get lost in political dead-ends,” White said. “West Virginia has abundant energy resources, but business and industry are ironically continuing to bear electric rate increases that harm West Virginia’s competitiveness due to the current regulatory paradigm,” Williamson said. “We need to change this so that business and industry can benefit from West Virginia’s energy advantage.”

Families and consumers, too, Stark added.

“Today’s event is designed to educate businesses and homeowners about the significant savings that the natural gas industry is delivering, and to showcase the jobs the industry is creating – good paying jobs,” Stark said.

Wednesday’s forum, Brown said, was a good place to get the discussion started.

“A great deal of pertinent information was shared by all the partners in the West Virginia Energy industry,” Brown said. “I believe it is important for all concerned to be at the table when discussing energy development in our area, to share insights, and gain knowledge from all participants. Organized labor looks forward to partnering with the industry to grow West Virginia’s economy and local economic development.”

Michael Whatley, executive vice president of CEA, said he hopes voters keep these urgent in mind when they head to the polls next month.

“We thank everyone who took the time to participate and hope we can keep these topics at the forefront of the political discussion as we approach November,” Whatley said. “Now, more than ever before, energy issues are critical to our region’s future, and we look forward to advancing our goals of improving energy independence and diversity and increasing access to more affordable, reliable energy to help lower energy costs for our communities and small businesses and to provide more opportunity for manufacturers and businesses.”