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Trump’s New Natural Gas Deal: Good or Bad for WV?

Alex O'Donnell, For The Parthenon

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President Trump announced a deal with China during his trip to Beijing. In particular, over $80 billion will be dedicated toward creating natural gas and chemical development in West Virginia for the next 20 years.

Gov. Jim Justice has called this “the largest investment in our state’s history.” Truly this proposed investment in our state should be lauded. However, at the same time, this deal raises important questions: What about the environmental and public health risks? What will this mean for me?

As a liberal, I care deeply about the environment and what we do to mitigate the risks we create through human activity. On a superficial level, billions of dollars spent to increase the amount of natural gas and chemicals produced seems like a non-starter.

So how should I reconcile the good with the bad? The economic activity with the environmental risk?

First, we must understand is that, for the time being, one of the things that West Virginia is good at producing is natural gas and chemicals. This represents a major investment in West Virginia, and therefore we should acknowledge that this deal will boost economic activity in West Virginia when there is not much of that going on. When we have an opportunity like this, we need to take it.

That does not mean we should squander it, like we have done in the past. Rather, this investment should be used toward creating jobs in stable, knowledge-based sectors. Specifically, our severance tax money created by this deal should go to investments in higher education, healthcare and a stabilization fund (to balance out fluctuations in the price of natural gas and coal). We need a carbon tax to account for the externalities caused by increased natural gas production, like pollution.

We need to look into further enforcing regulations to ensure that events like the recent fire in Parkersburg and the MCHM spill in Charleston in 2014 do not happen again. Our state and federal governments must take this into consideration moving forward.

But flatly saying no to a needed investment in our state? That’s just a bad deal.   

Alex O’Donnell can be contacted at [email protected]

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