WASHINGTON, D.C. — On a call with reporters Thursday, three West Virginia congressional leaders outlined the economic benefits of establishing an ethane storage and distribution center in central Appalachia.

U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), First District Congressman David McKinley (R-W.Va.) and American Chemistry Council President and CEO Cal Dooley were part of the call and all spoke in favor of the plan.

Bills were introduced in both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives to establish the storage hub in West Virginia. Capito, Manchin and Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) introduced the Appalachian Ethane Storage Hub Study Act of 2017 earlier this month. The Senate’s version would incorporate West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio. McKinley said he has a similar bill pending in the House that includes Kentucky.

Capito, the bill’s main sponsor, said establishing the hub in West Virginia makes sense because the state already has access to natural gas and that the state’s proximity would attract manufacturers in the Midwest and the East Coast.

“We think it’s critical to the development and to really maximum the resource that we have,” she said. “We want to help the manufacturing, power and energy sectors in our state and we want to start revitalizing our chemical industry and plastics industry in and around the Marcellus Shale.”

The bill directs the secretaries of the U.S. Departments of Energy and Commerce to conduct a feasibility study on the hub for the Marcellus, Utica and Rogersville natural gas shale formations.

West Virginia has become the largest producer of shale gas in the country, McKinley said.

“Certainly East of the Mississippi we’re one of the largest producers of gas overall, so we have some tremendous opportunities to do this,” he said.

The hub would create nearly 100,000 jobs and generate billions of dollars, according to Dooley.

“By our calculation, that would generate almost $3 billion in additional tax revenue,” Dooley said.

Manchin called the idea “a no brainer” and a “game changer” for West Virginia’s economy.

“There’s not a better investment the state of West Virginia, the state of Pennsylvania and state of Ohio can make if they would take a certain portion and commit to, basically, what we call ‘prime the pump’ to get the private sector involved,” he said.

The feasibility study, if passed, would look at the economic impacts and potential sites for the storage hub. It would be completed within two years after passage.

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