CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Austin Caperton says when it comes to the Governor’s Downstream Jobs Task Force, the main purpose is selling the state to the petrochemical industry.

“We’ve got support from the U.S. Department of Energy. We certainly have the governor’s support, and we have the president’s support,” he said.

“We already have a cracker going in across the river in Pennsylvania. There’s a possibility of another cracker. These crackers create products that go to other large manufacturing facilities that create products that go to further manufacturing facilities.”

Gov. Jim Justice announced the task force in August, which will focus on the anticipated job growth related to the petrochemical industry in Appalachia, and named Caperton as the head of the body.

“We want to make sure West Virginia gas and its liquids create jobs in West Virginia and not somewhere else,” Caperton said on a recent episode of MetroNews “Talkline.”

West Virginia Department Environmental Protection

Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Austin Caperton

Caperton and Department of Revenue Secretary Dave Hardy, who is also on the task force, spoke at last month’s West Virginia Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Meeting and Business Summit about their goals for the body, which includes encouraging energy companies to come to the Mountain State.

Hardy said there could be a rejuvenation of the petrochemical industry in the state, including in the Kanawha Valley where he is from.

“Twenty percent of what we’re producing locally — when I say locally, I mean the Appalachian storage field — will be going to the Shell facility in Beaver County, Pennsylvania. That facility is huge,” he said. “The fact that it’s being built and the state of Pennsylvania has invested potential tax credits of up to $1.65 billion indicates what a giant facility that will be.”

Ohio has invested $47 million in a similar site in Belmont County.

“It’s petrochemical products that are going to have tremendous downstream opportunities,” Hardy added.

Hardy said 80% of what the facility will produce will go to plants around the Gulf of Mexico.

“According to the Department of Energy, (it’s) 23% cheaper to make the product here rather than ship it to the Gulf,” he said. “Right now, there’s enough demand for one and a half crackers today based on the production a day. Additional crackers to the one in Beaver County.”

The Energy Department noted in July an “Appalachian petrochemical renaissance” would bring more than $30 billion in capital investment, create more than 100,000 permanent jobs and increase annual business revenue by $30 billion on an annual basis.