At a joint meeting of the state’s legislative committee on Tuesday, April 26, leaders of West Virginia’s fossil fuel industry acknowledged limits on the amount of coal and natural gas production in the state. that can support Europe’s transition away from Russian energy.
Addressing a joint meeting of the West Virginia Natural Gas and Energy Development Committees in the House to close the final day of this month’s interim legislative session, Eric Vir, chief financial officer of the producer of oil and gas Pillar Energy LLC, headquartered in West Virginia, noted record prices for natural gas. But he lamented that natural gas formations in the southern and southwestern United States produce more than the Appalachian Basin.
Vir argued that unless the region has more pipeline infrastructure — like the legally embattled Mountain Valley Pipeline — the region will lag behind other natural gas producing basins.
The 303-mile, 42-inch-diameter pipeline originally slated to be in service more than three years ago will not be completed any time soon, due to recent rulings by the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals that have delayed the approval of the main building permits.
The pipeline is expected to deliver up to 2 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica shale formations to markets in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions of the country. It would pass through Wetzel, Harrison, Doddridge, Lewis, Braxton, Webster, Nicholas, Greenbrier, Fayette, Summers, and Monroe counties in West Virginia.
But opponents of the project point to the pipeline’s history of environmental violations, including fines totaling more than $2.5 million imposed by regulators in Virginia and West Virginia.
Vir noted Germany’s recent acceleration of liquefied natural gas terminal projects to end dependence on Russian energy in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
But despite the industry’s focus on moving proposed export terminals to meet near-term European gas needs, experts say the U.S.’s potential to quickly protect its allies through gas exports gas is very limited.
The capacity of European liquefied natural gas terminals to receive shipments from the United States and other suppliers is weak, and a briefing by the nonprofit research firm Global Energy Monitor found that the construction of these terminals in the United States States generally took three to five years.
By the time new projects come online, Global Energy Monitor predicted, they will compete with new, cheaper sources of gas from suppliers like Qatar and new, cheaper renewables that are currently being accelerated in the European Union. .
Speaking to committee members on Tuesday evening, West Virginia Coal Association President Chris Hamilton echoed a resolution passed by the Senate last month affirming a “unique opportunity to strengthen national security and independence.” energy and to supply global energy markets”.
“The capacity is there,” Hamilton said, noting that West Virginia’s thermal and metallurgical coal is supplied throughout Europe. “The infrastructure is there.”
But many important pieces are missing, Hamilton added, lamenting an international coal shortage, labor and equipment shortages, supply chain disruptions, and adoption by the Biden administration and governments. decarbonization Democrats to stave off climate change.
“The offer was removed so dramatically that our  production from the operation in this state is exhausted,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton called on the Legislature to promote greater coal productivity and exports, and welcomed the Senate resolution declaring an opportunity to supply global energy markets with coal, gas and oil from West Virginia. , Senate Resolution 52.
The resolution urges the Legislature to create a special committee that would draft legislation to “unleash the power of West Virginia’s freedom fuels.”
Environmentalists and clean energy advocates have learned a different lesson from Europe’s dependence on Russian gas and oil, watching Europe’s recent moves to move away in the long term. fossil fuels.
The EU’s executive body announced last month that it was accelerating its plans to break its dependence on all fossil fuels, not just the energy that helps fund Russia’s war.
“An integrated EU energy system based largely on renewables and greater energy efficiency is the most cost-effective solution to reducing our dependence on fossil fuels in homes, buildings and industry,” said the European Commission, determined to significantly reduce dependence on Russian gas. two-thirds before the end of the year.
The EU called for the deployment of solar, wind and heat pumps and the development of hydrogen infrastructure, storage facilities and port capacity.
“I think it’s completely out of place,” Karan May, senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club in West Virginia, said of state lawmakers’ focus on building fuels infrastructure. fossils in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “This crisis that Europe finds itself in, for me, is clearly another reason to understand energy independence through renewables and storage and what we can do to eliminate the need to depend on fuel from other countries.”
Mike Tony covers energy and the environment. He can be reached at 304-348-1236 or [email protected]
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