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WVU Energy Institute Interim Director named to Governor’s Downstream Jobs Task Force for petrochemical expansion


James Wood, WVU Energy Institute Interim Director

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -  James Wood, interim director of the West Virginia University  Energy Institute, was named this week to the new Governor’s Downstream Jobs Task Force by Gov. Jim Justice.  The task force will work to bring downstream manufacturing opportunities to West Virginia ahead of an anticipated expansion of the petrochemical industry in Appalachia that the governor said will billions of dollars in investments and more than 100,000 new jobs to the region. 

The task force is a combination of officials from several executive branch agencies, along with other business and energy leaders from across the state.  The task force will encourage energy operations to locate at various points throughout West Virginia to support the construction of new petrochemical facilities. 

“This is an important commitment by the West Virginia government to advance the internal economic development of the state through responsible use of its natural resources rather than merely allowing these resources to be exported where their value would accrue to communities outside West Virginia,” Wood said. 

Members of Gov. Justice’s administration on the task force include Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Austin Caperton, Department of Revenue Secretary Dave Hardy, Department of Commerce Secretary Ed Gaunch, and Tourism Commissioner Chelsea Ruby.  In addition to Wood,  Javier A. Reyes, dean of the WVU John Chambers College of Business and Economics, was also named. Secretary Caperton will serve as its chairperson. 

U.S. Department of Energy leaders have identified West Virginia as a prime location to host a major expansion of the petrochemical industry because of its abundant natural resources. President Trump issued an executive order, instructing the DOE to formally look at the Appalachian region for potential locations to build petrochemical plants or other infrastructure. According to the DOE, a downstream petrochemical expansion in Appalachia could lead to significant growth in the region; including $36 billion in capital investment, more than 100,000 steady jobs, $28 billion in economic expansion, and $2.9 billion in annual tax revenues.  

“The potential is endless. This is one of the most important moments of our time,” Gov. Justice said. “In order to reach all that potential, we need to have downstream manufacturing operations already in place. And that’s where this new task force comes in.”  

Wood, who has more than 30 years in the energy industry and has lived in India, Belgium, Colombia, China and Italy representing top-tier energy companies, will add his private sector experience and perspective to the task force. He plans “to help the administration craft actions and strategies that will attract businesses to invest in West Virginia because of its many positive attributes.”  At the same time, he will assist in focusing on issues that may negatively affect outside investors and will recommend actions to change these issues in a positive way. 

The governor announced the task force in August during his yearly address to hundreds of the state’s top business, industry, financial, and political leaders at the annual West Virginia Chamber of Commerce Business Summit. 

More details and video on the governor’s website.


CONTACT:  Tracy Novak, WVU’s Energy Institute; 304.293.6928

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