Tomblin mention of Utica Shale a bit puzzling

January 15, 2013 by Ken Ward Jr.

It wasn’t surprising to hear Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin promote natural gas drilling as a big part of West Virginia’s economic future. But one part of this line from the governor’s inaugural address was a little odd:

And we continue to focus on making the most of the tremendous opportunities presented by both the Marcellus and Utica Shale. The Shale development and the potential economic growth and jobs that will come with the revitalization of the manufacturing sector are astounding; and West Virginia is right in the center of it all.

The Utica Shale? Perhaps I’ve missed it, but I haven’t heard many West Virginia political or business leaders touting that. Instead, they tend to focus on the Marcellus Shale, which is the formation where gas drilling in West Virginia is booming. Most of the Utica Shale action is in Ohio.

If you search permit applications filed with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, you don’t find many that target the Utica.  Corky DeMarco, lobbyist for the West Virginia Oil and Gas Association, noted that the Utica is deeper — perhaps 1,000 to 3,000 feet deeper, depending on the location — than the Marcellus Shale. Drilling a Utica well would be more costly than a Marcellus well.  When I asked if that was really something that the industry was doing right now, DeMarco told me:

There seems to be little to no current interest. No one is targeting the Utica.

UPDATED: Though, as the State Journal’s Taylor Kuykendall pointed out on Twitter, yesterday’s speech was not the first time Gov. Tomblin had talked about the Utica along with the Marcellus. Last spring, Taylor reported

On the first full morning of the a three day conference on the Marcellus and Utica shale gas play, West Virginia officials again publicly aligned behind the opportunity of shale gas.

Tomblin touted the state’s fiscal responsibility and attractiveness for doing business. One of the reasons the state is so attractive for drillers now, he said, is that the state has regulatory certainty in place alongside the resource.

“Probably five years ago there were only a handful of people in our entire state who knew what Marcellus shale was, or Utica with the exception of you the industry,” Tomblin said. “That’s one of the reasons it has taken the Legislature that long to come out with the regulations we were able to pass this past December.”

… Tomblin called a plant locating to Pennsylvania “a win for Appalachia,” but expressed some disappointment.

“I feel very confident that we will land a cracker plant in West Virginia, and it’s one that we’re working on,” Tomblin said. “… We’re embracing the Marcellus and Utica drilling. We want it done responsibly in West Virginia to protect our environment, to protect our people, but we want you to know that we want to work with you anyway we can to see that the jobs are created in our state.”

Taylor also questioned why I thought the governor’s mention of the Utica yesterday was odd:

Why do you find it odd Gov mentioned Utica? Was 1, brief mention. Utica shale will affect manufacturing in whole region … Gov. talking abt jobs, economy not production, sev tax. There’s no wall b/w WV and Ohio. Plus, Utica still under exploration.

 

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