Oklahoma-based Chesapeake is the largest natural gas driller in West Virginia.
"They're a huge player in the state right now," Burdette said. "They're relying on us for production. They don't have a product to sell if they're not drilling it here."
Last week, Chesapeake announced it has signed a contract with Enterprise Products Partners, which plans to build a 1,230-mile pipeline from the Marcellus and Utica shales in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio to Texas's Gulf Coast, which is considered the hub of the petrochemical industry. From there, the ethane would have access to chemical factories throughout the United States.
The pipeline is scheduled to start operation in early 2014 with a capacity of 125,000 barrels of ethane per day.
Burdette said 75,000 barrels of ethane -- the amount Chesapeake plans to ship to Texas at the start -- is enough to support at least one cracker plant.
"They're shipping out a cracker's worth of ethane to the Gulf Coast," he said. "They're shipping out gas that could support investment here."
Burdette said Commerce Department officials plan to meet later this week to discuss ways to persuade companies not to ship ethane outside the state.
"We're going to discuss how to incentivize developing and retaining value-added products in the region, encouraging suppliers that we can use those products here," Burdette said.
He said a single cracker plant would create about 500 full-time, high-paying jobs and 10,000 construction jobs. A company would spend $2 billion to $4 billion to build such a facility, he said.
"We're not surrendering because of Chesapeake's decision," Burdette said. "This is too important. We think this is a multi-generational opportunity."
Chesapeake CEO Aubrey McClendon repeatedly has bashed West Virginia in recent years, saying the state deserves its "judicial hellhole" reputation.
In 2007, Chesapeake got socked with a multimillion-dollar jury verdict in a Roane County gas-royalties case.
In response, Chesapeake scrapped plans to build a regional headquarters building in Charleston and cut 215 jobs.
Reach Eric Eyre at erice...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4869.