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Midstream Marcellus Jobs Going to WV Workers


Monday, August 19, 2013   

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The fight to put West Virginia workers in Marcellus jobs seems to be bringing results, at least in one big part of the natural-gas industry. Unions and companies in the midstream sector of the state's natural-gas boom say those jobs are now being filled by trained, well-paid West Virginia workers. The midstream part of the natural-gas industry includes building and maintaining the plants that take the valuable liquids - ethane and butane - from the gas.

According to Tom Gray, president of the Upper Ohio Valley Building Trades Council and the business manager for Laborers Local 1149 in Wheeling, the union is growing rapidly because they're putting people in those jobs as fast as they can.

"Probably a year and a half ago, we were down to in the neighborhood of 450 members," he said. "Today we're up closer to 800."

Blue Racer Midstream is a joint venture of Dominion and Caiman Energy that has just taken over ownership of Dominion's big Natrium plant in Marshall County. Blue Racer has won praise from the construction unions for its use of a contractor who employs local workers in expansion of the Natrium plant. According to CEO Jack Lafield, they're already in discussions with other companies that may want to locate next to the Natrium site, and use the liquids produced there as feedstock.

"We're there to prosper for the long term and bring a new facility on in a region that has unfortunately seen a lot of facilities rusting," Layfield said. "It'll be a long-term relationship; it's not a short-term deal."

Tom Gray said the construction unions in the Northern Panhandle see the midstream part of the gas industry as providing good blue-collar careers in a number of fields.

"An electrician or a carpenter. An operator or a pipe fitter. Good-paying wages with benefits. There's fifteen different crafts that make up the upper Ohio Valley building and trades, and all of those crafts are taking in people."

For several years, unions and citizen groups had criticized the industry for hiring out-of-state labor. The unions now say their efforts are working.

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