Steve White, executive director of the Affiliated Construction Trades Foundation, has consistently raised those questions.
The ACT Foundation asked Marshall University researchers to compare the economic impact of hiring local workers against hiring out-of-state workers.
Local communities in West Virginia lose millions of dollars when out-of-state construction workers are hired for projects such as building Marcellus Shale drilling and processing facilities, the study found. It was completed in late 2010.
Conducted by Marshall University's Center for Business and Economic Research, the study examined the local economic impacts of building a hypothetical natural gas processing facility similar to the one being built in Marshall County by Dominion Resources.
Dominion's building project, which will last for 30 months, will employ 600 workers at its peak and cost $500 million.
Dominion Resources, based in Richmond, Va., hired CBI-Lummus, a Texas contractor, to build its facility on the shores of the Ohio River in Natrium, a town north of New Martinsville and south of Moundsville in the Northern Panhandle.
The economic impact of paying wages to local workers, the Marshall researchers found, is eight times higher than paying wages to non-local workers, who live here only temporarily.
Last year, Chuck Penn, a Dominion Resources spokesman, defended his company, which he said is investing just under $1 billion for three projects in West Virginia.
The successful bidder for one of Dominion's projects was based in Houston.
"The contract was predicated solely on their technical expertise, he said. "There was no company in West Virginia that had the combination of attributes we needed.
Dominion had encouraged subcontractors to hire local workers, Penn said.
The Marshall study estimated a local community could lose $76.6 million in wages from such a project, when transient workers are hired from distant states.
Using local workers to build such a gas processing facility could infuse $86.4 million in wages into the local economy, the study found.
Typically, most of the money that non-local workers spend goes to hotels and restaurants.
Opposition has also developed in some communities.
In September 2010, the Pocahontas County Commission wrote to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, stating that it was "gravely concerned about the impacts to our pristine environmental and rural culture from the impending possibility of hydrofracture drilling in the Marcellus Shale underlying our borders."
Martin V. Saffer, a lawyer and member of the Pocahontas County Commission, said his county's unique environment "is a benefit for people who live here and people throughout the rest of West Virginia."
"We have pure water, opportunities for recreation. We have a wonderful, flourishing tourism industry. We have farming communities and timber resources. All of these resources will support an economy that will sustain itself for many, many future generations," Saffer said.
Some critics believe drillers have already begun to damage the state's water supplies, since hydraulic fracturing opens up huge fissures in rocks often a mile or more below the surface and pumps in chemicals to assist the removal of natural gas.
Leslee McCarty from the West Virginia Environmental Council believes those chemicals threaten the state's future water supplies and health.
Drilling in West Virginia and other states is causing harm to people's health, their livestock, property, well water, streams and contaminating the air they breathe, she said.
Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.