US Senate subcommittee discuss natural gas hub, marketing products

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Energy held a hearing Tuesday on seven bills including two regarding federal government support for energy services and related technology that could impact West Virginia.

The subcommittee — in which West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin serves as the ranking Democratic member — discussed Senate Bills 1337 and 1719. The former piece of legislation would expand the Department of Energy’s loan program for the establishment of a regional energy infrastructure facility, and the latter would request the creation of a program to fund technology development at an Energy Department facility.

Manchin and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., co-introduced Senate Bill 1337, on June 12, and Manchin is one of Senate Bill 1719’s cosponsors. Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico introduced Senate Bill 1719, the Energy Technology Maturation Act of 2017, on Sept. 12.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.

Manchin said the passage of Senate Bill 1337, titled the Capitalizing on American Storage Potential Act, would be instrumental in possibly establishing a natural gas storage center in Appalachia, primarily affecting those living in Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

“West Virginia is a state that is rich in natural resources,” Manchin told the subcommittee. “I believe the Appalachian storage hub offers the chance for geographic diversification of our manufacturing sector.”

Manchin added the Marcellus and Utica shale formations would allow for the drilling of natural gas including ethane and natural gas liquids, the latter of which can be used in the creation of plastics.

The senior senator also cited a May economic report from the American Chemistry Council detailing the benefits of a storage facility in Appalachia, including 100,000 new jobs and $2.9 billion in new tax revenue.

U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.

The American Chemistry Council is a trade association whose regular members include 3M, Merck & Co. and Monsanto Co.

Manchin added with natural gas facilities in Texas facing problems following Hurricane Harvey in August, a new space away from damaging weather systems would help in providing consumers and companies products.

“The hub will help insulate our nation from supply disruptions from ongoing weather events in the Gulf (of Mexico),” he said.

Capito said the hearing was a step in the right direction for the bill’s passage.

“In West Virginia, the regional storage hub would increase our energy use, create jobs and spur economic growth,” she said in a statement.

Under Senate Bill 1799, the Energy Department would establish the Energy Technology Maturation Program to assist in funding the commercialization of technology developed at agency facilities.

The National Energy Technology Laboratory in Morgantown is classified as one of these Department of Energy sites.

The department would use resources from the Energy Technology Commercialization Fund, which is designed to support energy technology projects, for this effort.

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