Sunday, February 24, 2013

Who is Being Hired for West Virgina Jobs in the Marcellus Shale?

Apparently the answer is that no one really knows.  The Charleston Gazette recently reported that it is unclear how many West Virginia residents have been hired for jobs created by the Marcellus Shale boom in West Virginia. 

Organized labor unions have complained that some companies that have come to West Virginia to tap the Marcellus Shale gas reserves have brought in primarily out-of-state residents to fill the jobs created by the shale gas craze.  In response, the West Virginia House of Representatives passed a bill during the 2011 special legislative session that would have required companies drilling in the Marcellus Shale to submit reports disclosing the residency of their employees.  The final legislation signed by the Governor, however, omitted such a requirement. It instead required the Department of Commerce to submit an annual report detailing the demographics of the Marcellus Shale workforce, including residency, race, ethnicity, gender, and military veteran status. 

The Gazette article reported that the first annual report submitted last year did not detail the residency or veteran status of Marcellus Shale workers.  Secretary of Commerce Keith Burdette claims that the omissions were due to the lack of a source from which to obtain such information. Presumably, the reports that would have been required by the original House bill would have provided such a source.  Despite Mr. Burdette's claims, union leaders claim that organized labor was assured during the 2011 special session that the reports were not needed because the information that would be required therein was already available to the state.

While I certainly hope that West Virginia residents are the primary benefactors of the extraction of oil and gas from the Marcellus Shale in the Mountain State, the view from here is that this story is much ado about nothing.  Requiring companies to disclose the residency of its Workforce is not going to do much to ensure that West Virginia residents are being hired for Marcellus jobs in West Virginia.  The draft legislation passed by the House contained no requirement that any certain percentage of jobs go to West Virginia residents.  In fact, such a requirement would surely be met with constitutional challenges.