"We hire union labor. We have 1,300 employees in West Virginia; 80 percent of them are union workers. But we don't always hire union labor under our contracts," Orndorff said.
"Steve White [ACT's executive director] says Dominion does not hire union labor. That is false."
Dominion signed "labor agreements with the ACT Foundation for our Pleasants Energy Plant and Ned Wind Turbine Project," Orndorff said. "And we encourage our contractors to hire locally."
Charles E. Penn Sr., Dominion's manager of media and community relations, criticized ACT's negative TV ads and signs posted along roads in the Northern Panhandle.
"When you see these signs, what kind of a message does that send, especially when Dominion is competing with companies who might decide to build plants in Pennsylvania or Ohio?"
Many of the signs say: "Dominion Loves Scabs" or "Dominion Loves Rats."
"What impact is that campaign having on West Virginia's chances to get a cracker?" Penn asked. "This is a state that could use an infusion of jobs."
A cracker processes wet natural gas, often producing a variety of other products such as diesel fuel, gasoline, naphtha and ethylene -- a major product used by the plastics industry.
Back in 1915, Dominion built the Hastings Extraction Plant in Wetzel County. Orndorff said it "was the first plant to separate liquids from natural gas in the United States."
Knuth said, "Once a cracker is built, there is a tremendous possibility smaller plants will be built nearby, because ethylene can be used in making almost any type of plastic. That could put thousands of people to work."
No company has made a final decision about where to build a new cracker plant, Knuth said, which could cost between $2 billion and $4 billion.
"We would surely like to have it in our county," Knuth said. "It would be second best to have a cracker in an adjacent county or right across the Ohio River in Belmont County."
Richard Neely, a Charleston lawyer and former West Virginia Supreme Court justice, recently founded a new company called Invictus LLC, which hopes to build the local cracker plant to process natural gas along the Kanawha River west of Montgomery.
Neely has been talking with investors and construction companies around the country about his proposed plant.Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or 304-3348-5164.