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How Hard Would It Be To Tell If Marcellus Jobs Go To Local Workers?

December 12, 2011

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Lawmakers have returned to Charleston for a special legislative session on Marcellus Shale drilling rules. One part of the bill they're debating would require the natural gas industry to report how many of the jobs are going to state residents. Some in the industry have said doing that would be nearly impossible, but others describe it as a minor paperwork change.

Dave Efaw, secretary-treasurer of the West Virginia State Building and Construction Trades, points out that employers already report the data on at least two federal tax documents and separately keep it on file for the state.

"Everybody collects this information on every employee they hire. They're already doing this, so it adds nothing more to them, except for maybe gathering it and sending it to the Department of Labor. That's it."

According to Corky DeMarco with the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association, keeping the data for all their contractors would be a huge burden for the trade group's members.

"I don't think it's feasible. I would have to know who came out and fixed a piece of equipment on a day when it broke down, and I'd have to know where their workers came from."

Dave Efaw claims the companies already know who their contractors are, and the contractors already file the information about their employees.

In fact, Efaw says, a tax break the legislature passed last year already requires the companies to report the same information to the state tax department. He says many of the firms are already planning to send the data in so they can qualify for the subsidy.

"In order to get that tax break, you have to prove that you use local workforce. They're collecting this information for these tax breaks now. It doesn't add anything that they're not already doing."

Industry groups have complained they are being singled out by a regulation that would not apply to any others. Efaw argues it is not much to ask, since the industry only exists because it is extracting a valuable West Virginia natural resource.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV