Oil and gas rep details positive aspect of industry

PARKERSBURG — A better job needs to be done communicating the positive impacts of the oil and natural gas industry, a representative of a business association said on Monday.

The tax revenue generated for schools in Doddridge County is a benefit from a robust oil and natural gas industry, said Anne Blankenship, executive director of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association. For example, paid for entirely by tax revenue, a new $12.8 million sports complex next to Doddridge County High School will be open when school starts this fall.

“This is what we should be talking about,” she said.

Blankenship was in Parkersburg and St. Marys on Monday.

The association in May reported its survey showed voters believe the natural gas industry will be play the largest role in the future in the state’s economy.

However, competitiveness is key to any success, which is why the association opposes increasing the severance tax on natural gas, Blankenship said.

“We don’t see that as the answer at all,” Blankenship said.

West Virginia has to remain competitive with adjoining states with lower severance taxes, she said. Raising the tax reduces West Virginia’s competitiveness.

“In our view it’s counterproductive,” Blankenship said.

A problem facing both the state and the industry are road repairs, particularly to damage caused by weather, she said. The industry addresses damage caused by equipment and helps maintain roads, but weather-related damages have caused back logs for the highways division, Blankenship said.

“It’s a huge problem,” Blankenship said. “They are so far behind just keeping up with what has already happened.”

The oil and gas industry spent $34 million in 2018 in West Virginia on road upgrades, maintenance and designs.