Jackpot

West Virginia needs to maximize return

It appears we West Virginians have hit the jackpot. A Chinese company’s plan to spend nearly $84 billion on natural gas-related projects in our state should prove to be a shot in the arm for our economy.

Let’s not be like the Powerball winners who ignore advice to handle their good fortune with care, to maximize the return.

Little is known about precisely how the Chinese firm plans to spend its money here. Two gas-fired power plants, in Brooke and Harrison counties, are the only specific projects of which we have heard.

It has been reported that the Chinese firm’s strategy is to invest its money during a 20-year period. Ethane crackers, ethane storage hubs and chemical plants are among the possibilities.

Obviously, the sooner that nearly $84 billion creates new jobs in the Mountain State, the better.

Twenty years is a long time. Much can change. For any number of reasons, Chinese officials could alter their plan, perhaps to the detriment of our state.

Gov. Jim Justice and state legislators should be moving to minimize the possibility of that happening and to maximize the potential good for our economy.

How? Well, officials at the Chinese company may have some suggestions. Availability of an access road for a cracker plant scheduled for, say, 2020 could mean it is constructed sooner. Streamlined regulations — without jeopardizing the environment, worker safety or the public — could help.

Others in the energy and chemical industries may have concrete suggestions, too.

A few days of patting ourselves on the backs and speculating on bright futures are understandable. But very quickly, we need to get back to the same drawing board we have been at during the past few years, in trying to make West Virginia more attractive to job creators. The difference now is that we have a solid target at which to shoot. We need to aim carefully.

COMMENTS