Environmental and citizens' groups, however, have concerns about the possibility of groundwater contamination from hydraulic fracturing, the process that uses water and chemicals to break gas deposits free from the rock. They also worry about air pollution and damage to roads and streams, among other things.
In September, 10 of those groups renewed their 2010 call for a moratorium on new drilling, arguing the industry is not sufficiently regulated.
West Virginia has enacted an array of new rules, but the Sierra Club, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition and other groups maintain they're inadequate protection for public health and the environment.
The Sierra Club was among several groups that issued their own jobs projections Wednesday. They say some 19,500 jobs could be created in West Virginia if the state's two biggest utilities, FirstEnergy and American Electric Power, were required to invest in programs to promote energy efficiency.
Consulting firm Optimal Energy says focusing on energy efficiency through 2016 would also save customers a total of $800 million over the life of the efficiency investments, or $550 million more than under the companies' current plans.
"Energy efficiency creates a win-win situation. It puts money back in the pockets of our citizens and it creates jobs,'' said Stacy Gloss of Energy Efficient West Virginia.
West Virginia lags the nation in energy-efficiency investments, the groups say. In its 2012 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy ranked West Virginia 49th out of 50 states and the District of Columbia.