Local and state politicians expressed disappointment and confusion Thursday after learning a sought-after ethane cracker likely will be built in Pennsylvania.
However, many remained hopeful that the abundance of natural gas in West Virginia and the entire region will be a major draw for future consideration for a similar plant.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said he and other state officials worked hard to provide incentives for the plant to locate within the Mountain State's borders. He said the decision was based on factors neither he nor any other politician could have changed.
"Ultimately, the decision was related to site-specific factors beyond our control," he said, choosing to remain optimistic about what the state has to offer for future ventures. "Our efforts to recruit a petrochemical company have never been limited to the Shell project. We will continue to make all efforts to rebuild the petrochemical and related industries."
However, Bill Maloney, who challenged Tomblin in the October election and is again seeking the office this fall, said the news shows West Virginia did not do enough to attract the plant - an issue he fears will persist.
"For months ... Tomblin has said that this was his number one priority as governor," Maloney said. "Well, he failed. This administration has done nothing to fix the fundamental problems that job creators face in West Virginia, but unfortunately West Virginia families continue to pay the price for the failures of the career politicians, special interests and lobbyists in Charleston."
Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, said he and his fellow legislators still believe West Virginia's incentives are "aggressive," offering work force development and tax credits, as well as regulatory legislation to permit such a plant. He added the geography and topography of the Beaver County, Pa., site helped seal the deal rather than the Keystone State's incentive package.
"At the end of the day, we were extremely competitive and we are optimistic," Kessler said. "We still have what they need, which is an abundant supply of natural gas. We are willing to do anything and everything we can to land one, and we are prepared to develop any site at any cost to ensure we can ultimately benefit from these resources."
Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin, both D-W.Va., as well as Reps. David McKinley and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., all expressed disappointment Thursday, though they also spoke highly of future opportunities and what the state has to offer, as well as the benefits of a cracker plant coming anywhere near the Northern Panhandle.
"The key considerations for Shell reportedly centered on rail, rivers and roads, all of which West Virginia has in abundance," McKinley said. "Our work force is also second-to-none, and Shell did not dispute that."
"The bottom line is, whether the cracker plant is built in Pennsylvania, West Virginia or Ohio, the plant is going to create good-paying manufacturing jobs and revitalize our chemical industry, keeping America strong and competitive," Manchin said.
On the local front, Marshall County Commission President Jason "Jake" Padlow said while the news was disappointing, it also came as a relief after several months of work and worry. He said the county can now step back, re-evaluate the situation and determine what needs to be done when an opportunity for another cracker arises.
"We've come a long way, and we will continue to work and move on," he said. "We need to look to expand available property, and the state and county needs to come up with some different strategies for the next time."