Democratic News

To watch a video of Senator Manchin’s opening remarks click here.

To watch a video of Senator Manchin’s questioning click here.

Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, again expressed his growing concern over the lack of transparency surrounding the $83 billion Chinese investment in West Virginia.

“I want to go on the record again.  A lot of you have heard about China’s involvement in our industry. In West Virginia they came and signed an MOU for $83 billion, and I repeat $83 billion over twenty years. When you put that in comparison to the state budget of West Virginia, our state budget only goes over $4 billion dollars a year, so something doesn’t make sense here and we cannot find out what their intent is. So I have come to the conclusion, I want to make very clear, we encourage their investment. We’d love to have their $83 billion if it’s for capital expenditure.  If it’s for removing resources such as the ethane, propane, butane, and taking a commitment of taking all of our wet gas, which we use as a building block to reinvigorate our petrochemical base, then I would hope for the officials in my state of West Virginia that that is a nonstarter. We will do everything we can to prevent that from happening, and I’m trying to pass every piece of legislation I can for [the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States] to review all the properties that were taken out of our country. We want to help our allies but when the intent is to destroy us economically, basically by taking our stock feed, that is something that cannot happen, and I’ve been very vocal on that, and I want to go on record with that. Bring your investments for the capital improvements and capital expenditures, don’t bring your investments to try to think you’re going to rob us of our natural resources,” Ranking Member Manchin said.

Ranking Member Manchin asked Dr. John Deskins, Director of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at West Virginia University about the economic impact the proposed Appalachian Storage Hub could have to the region.  

“We’ve talked about a storage hub and what that storage hub could mean not only for the security of our nation but also the economic impact. I think, Dr. Deskins you have done some preliminary numbers on what you think that could produce. The petrochemical industry along the Ohio River and up the Kanawha River, that surrounds West Virginia and comes up to West Virginia, has been strategic for our country since WWII. All the things that have been invented and we take for granted, a lot of them were created right there. It’s a shell of what it used to be so we have the ability to grow within that same footprint and it’s not being utilized. That’s what we’re looking to do with that petrochemical revitalization. Dr. Deskins can you touch on the economic vitality that could happen,” Ranking Member Manchin asked.

“It is remarkable how much of a surge we’ve seen in terms of production of raw natural gas that we’re extracting from West Virginia and exporting to other states and that created benefits in various ways – it creates good paying jobs, it creates revenue for state and local government, but the fact is simply exporting raw natural gas is a very capital intensive process. So if you look at the dollar value of economic output it’s mind-blowing, but it just doesn’t create as many jobs as you would imagine because it’s an extremely capital intensive sector. Certainly in West Virginia the number of jobs created by gas is not close to enough to offset jobs lost in coal so exporting raw natural gas is a good thing but it’s not a transformative opportunity for West Virginia, it’s not going to allow us to achieve the prosperity we’ve been hoping for over the long run. What we have to do to really achieve prosperity is keep the natural gas in West Virginia, ethane storage hub is a part of that process but keep the gas in West Virginia and use it in chemicals in plastics and other types of manufacturing industries to see the value added in West Virginia and then export more valuable products. To the extent that we can really achieve our full potential and see that value added manufacturing that could take place in West Virginia can be a completely different and transformative experience for a state to bring in tens of thousands of high paying jobs that could make a real difference. Ethane cracker is part of that process, ethane storage hub is part of that process, collaboration with research laboratories is part of that process, but that has to be our focus not simply just exporting raw and natural gas,” said Dr. Deskins.

Ranking Member Manchin also questioned Dr. Brian Anderson, Director of the National Energy Technology Lab, about the recruiting practices at the National Energy Technology Lab in Morgantown. 

“Dr. Anderson, if I can ask you, you’ve taken a role on in the national labs and we’re very proud of that, but there are major driver of economic activity all over the country and they have been on the forefront of many innovative and creative things that many of us have taken for granted and don’t know how we got them, but we sure do enjoy them. With that being said I understand that NETL only has 460 full time positions in Morgantown, West Virginia, 522 are authorized. You just mentioned that you have about half of that workforce that can retire, where are we on the recruiting end?” Ranking Member Manchin asked.

“We’ve been balancing – there’s part of the congressional justifications and the president’s budget that we have caps on the federal positions – but we’ve been balancing that with hiring through contracting researchers. So the authorized numbers are considerably higher than the budget numbers. We’re in the midst of development planning for how we can train up the existing workforce and make sure we’re recruiting on all three sites including Morgantown,” said Dr. Anderson.

The hearing also featured testimony from representatives from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, Launch Alaska and North Carolina’s Electronic Cooperatives. To read their testimonies click here.

To watch the hearing in full click here.

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