PARKERSBURG - A U.S. congressman wants to find out the reasons why West Virginia was not chosen for the site of an ethane cracker plant so the state can be better prepared to pursue another such facility.
U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., was in Parkersburg Thursday talking to a group of local businessmen and private citizens at the Parkersburg City Building and then talked to the Editorial Board at The Parkersburg News and Sentinel.
The announcement Thursday that West Virginia lost out on a multibillion-dollar chemical plant from Shell was one of the topics the congressman talked about. Shell announced it was planning to build the plant in Monaca, Pa., close to the West Virginia border.
U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., right, met with local businessmen and private citizens Thursday in Parkersburg to discuss issues affecting them. (Photo by Brett Dunlap)
From the preliminary information McKinley has gotten, Shell chose the Pennsylvania site because of access to transportation.
''They said rail, river and roads were the issues that made them select Pennsylvania,'' McKinley said. ''All of these West Virginia has in abundance. If that is accurate, fine, but it is the same river that goes past this valley here.''
''We do know Pennsylvania put $500,000 into a new rail spur to make this thing more accessible.''
McKinley said one problem West Virginia had was the issue of "captive rails" where rail lines are designated for trains owned by a particular company.
The congressman thinks a lot of issues hinged on transportation concerns as he felt he and others made a good case for the quality workforce the state has to offer.
''We don't really know,'' he said. ''It is still much too early.''
McKinley would like to see an exit interview done between Shell and the interested parties from the state on why West Virginia was not chosen.
''Let's find out what went wrong,'' he said. ''Let's get more specific.''
He wants to know if someone else offered more tax advantages, real estate breaks or other incentives.
''We probably spent hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to attract them,'' McKinley said. ''I want to learn from this.''
By learning what was done wrong or something that could be improved, the state has a better chance of addressing those concerns when it pursues the other proposed ethane cracker facility being touted for this region.
''Remember there are two plants,'' the congressman said. ''Shell was one. The other is still out there and they have not made their determination yet.
''We need to learn from the competition and how did they beat us. We can apply that to Plan B (the other cracker facility).''
Also, McKinley would like to see the state go after plants and facilities for supporting industries that will be built as a result of the cracker facility being in the region.
''All is not lost yet,'' he said. ''If we come back negative then the second plant may well say they don't want to come here either.
''We have to be very careful in how we handle it, because there is still some good potential here.''
McKinley suggested that in addition to the governor and representatives of the governor's office, national lawmakers, like himself and others representing the state, need to present a united front to show that West Virginia is serious about bringing a facility like this to the state.
The congressman also talked about regulations implemented by the Federal Environmental Protection Agency and the high price of gasoline.
Coal continues to be a big issue in Washington, D.C., with federal lawmakers wanting to see its use cut severely, McKinley said. With new regulations from the EPA and costs too large to renovate operations, companies have to decide whether to raise prices to come into compliance or shut down, he said. Some are choosing to shut down operations.
Wood County Commissioner Blair Couch, who manages the local Hertz car rental business, said West Virginia is using the resources it has at hand.
''I don't know why (other states) are hell bent on us to stop mining coal,'' he said.
The price of gasoline is the one item that affects people more than anything else, said Jim Oppe, owner of the local Foodland stores.
''That is the number-one concern of the people who work for me,'' he said. ''Their wages don't go up with gas prices.''
The United States is a large exporter of gasoline because the fuel does not meet regulations for use in this country, McKinley said.
McKinley said opening more drilling and tapping other sources can help lower the price of gas. Also, building the Keystone pipeline across the United States from Canada can add 800,000 barrels of oil a day and that can lower gas prices, he said.
''I supported it,'' McKinley said.