REALITY CHECK: TOUGH TIMES AHEAD FOR WEST VIRGINIA - Gas Boom Still On, Tax Revenues Declining, Gas Customers Get Small Break

(10/08/2015)

COMMENT By Bob Weaver

The good news - West Virginia residential customers will pay less for natural gas following an adjustment of utility rates by the West Virginia Public Service Commission, as the price of well-head gas declines for eight of the last nine years.

The WV-PSC says that a typical residential customer of Mountaineer Gas will pay $1.48 less for every 1,000 cubic feet used.

Hope Gas residential customers will see a $1.41 decrease.

The PSC is required by law to allow gas utilities to recover the cost of buying natural gas. The commission adjusts customer rates’ annually to account for this cost.

The bad news, West Virginia's budget gap in Charleston is projected to grow to $250 million by the end of the fiscal year.

West Virginia, with a 125 year dependence on coal, gas and extractables, critics would say a failure to diversify, the decline to low energy prices have eroded tax collections, and will continue to cause job losses.

Former State Senator Brooks McCabe, a real estate developer, gave a reality check, saying "Times are tough in West Virginia, and by all indications, it is going to get worse before it gets better."

Perhaps, in poor, rural counties like Calhoun, historically use to tough times, citizens will continue to exercise their strong survival skills.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin just told most state agencies to cut spending by 4 percent to help close the gap.

Meanwhile, natural gas development continues to increase, defying supply and demand principles.

With the gas and oil boom, West Virginia's independent producers are nearly dead in the water, hobbled by the giant, multi-national producers.

New Rogersville shale reserves are still being discovered, a lot smaller than the Marcellus or Uutica shale we've all heard about.

"We think it's going to lean more toward natural gas in West Virginia, where it's deeper and a little more mature," says geologist Brandon Nuttall. "And it's going to tend more toward wet gas and liquids in Kentucky, where it's shallower and less mature."

Nuttall says, considering the current situation with oil and natural gas prices, the new shale reserve may have more potential for future rather than current production of natural gas.

Meanwhile, the state's tax coffers are suffering.


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