2017-11-15 / Opinions

Big questions loom over China deal

Governor Jim Justice might be wondering why his big news isn’t making everybody in West Virginia jump for joy. He and state Commerce secretary Woody Thrasher announced late last week that the state has entered into an $84 billion investment arrangement with a Chinese energy firm. That’s Billion. China Energy Investment Corporation Limited will, Justice said, sink the money into West Virginia’s natural gas and chemical industries over the next 20 years. The deal was signed under the watchful eye of President Trump and China’s president.

Energy industry folks are understandably thrilled. Thrasher, founder of one of the state’s largest engineering firms, said the deal will boost needed infrastructure. Details about what projects will be funded, and where, are scarce.

Regular folks are wondering if the Mountain State just got sold to China. The investment amount is larger than a single year of West Virginia’s entire economic output ($73.4 billion in 2016). With that level of investment, does West Virginia’s future turn toward Chinese priorities instead of our own? Is this “America first”?

Some of the major questions around this deal have to do with regular people who live in West Virginia. What role will they have in planning how their towns and cities change as drilling, processing and storage facilities start to expand? How will the state, already strapped for cash and talent, handle a flood of permits and regulatory work tied to a big gas boom? Will lawmakers be asked to pave the way for big projects, as they have been in the past?

Gov. Justice sees the China deal as another “big win” in his quest to turn around the state’s economy. No doubt there will be winners. History says in the long run, it’s not likely to be West Virginians.

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It seems that WV "never

It seems that WV "never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity". Please articulate what, exactly, are "West Virginia's Priorities"? During the 35 years I lived in the eastern panhandle, and 4 years before that, when I attended a WV college, I saw no evidence whatsoever of WV or it's residents "taking charge" of their own future or taking any positive steps to make long-term improvements to their own economic situation. They've relied almost exclusively on handouts from the federal government and other states. In fact, the only time I ever saw local residents getting "riled up" about anything was when some out-of-state firm actually wanted to come into the area, build or develop any new project, and in the process hire local West Virginians for new jobs, pump new money into the local economy, and expand the area's tax base. Without fail, you could always rely on the same group of local anti-growth activists to mobilize, criticize, and drive that company or developer's proposed investment plan out of the area. If it wasn't overblown concern over possible increased traffic, or more noise, or "assumed" possible pollution of water, or cutting down some trees, or building a new sewage treatment plant, then they would inevitably resort to bemoaning the "loss" of the "good ol' days" when "gran-pappy" used to live in Morgan County. After wasting months on endless and unproductive meetings and negotiations, the potential new business would finaly just say, "this is too hard", and take their money and jobs somewhere else - to another state that was more than happy to receive the new jobs and economic "shot in the arm". The fact is, that WV is in an economic death-spiral. Unlike most every other state, WV's population is aging, diminishing, poorly educated, and increasingly unhealthy due to obesity, smoking, and drugs. Actually, I'm surprised that any Chinese firm would want to invest any money, let alone $84 Billion into the state!