CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Last week, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's administration told state lawmakers that the boom in natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale field "continues to have a positive impact on West Virginia's economy."
Employment in oil and gas industries grew by just more than 20 percent in 2012, according to a report from the Department of Commerce's Workforce West Virginia division. Average wages also increased, from about $70,000 to $75,600, the reports said.
But the annual report left out some important information: How many of the jobs created by the Marcellus rush are going to West Virginia residents, and how many to out-of-state workers?
For the second year in a row, the Tomblin administration report did not provide that key -- and legislatively mandated -- data about the residency of natural gas industry workers.
The Commerce Department added information about the race, ethnicity and gender of gas industry workers to this year's report. But, "Unfortunately, there are still some details we are unable to provide," an agency spokeswoman said.
As companies race to tap into the Marcellus gas reserves and build associated pipelines and gas-processing facilities, organized labor groups have complained that companies were bringing in out-of-state workers to fill too many of the new jobs.
During a special session in late 2011 that focused on new environmental rules on drilling, a few lawmakers tried to address the workforce issue. They proposed language to require companies to submit new reports to the state to provide an employee residency breakdown.
Industry lobbyists objected to this language, and it was removed during closed-door negotiations between the Tomblin administration and those lobbyists.
A committee bill, approved in the House after months of discussion at interim meetings, had required companies to disclose the information. But the governor's bill, which eventually passed, instead mandated a government study by the Commerce Department.
Under the final version, the state's report was required to include, among other things, a review of the number of jobs created for legal West Virginia residents and non-residents and a review of "the number of employees domiciled" in West Virginia.