CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- During his State of the State address two weeks ago, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin praised the Marcellus Shale drilling boom, and said West Virginia is "making the most of the opportunities associated with our abundant natural gas."
But it's still not clear how many of the jobs created by the natural gas drilling frenzy have gone to West Virginians -- or how large a share of those positions are being filled by out-of-state workers.
That's because a legislatively mandated report by the Tomblin administration, issued in November, did not include key data that lawmakers wanted about residency of the natural gas industry's workers.
As companies raced to tap into the Marcellus Shale gas reserves and build associated pipelines and gas processing facilities, organized labor groups complained that companies were bringing in out-of-state workers to fill too many of the new jobs.
During a special legislative session in late 2011 that focused on new rules on Marcellus drilling, some lawmakers sought to get to the bottom of the issue. They proposed language to require companies to submit new reports to the state to provide a breakdown of worker residency.
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 had required companies to disclose information about the residency of their work force. The governor's bill eliminated that requirement, instead mandating a government study by the Department of Commerce.
Under the final legislation, signed into law by Tomblin, 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-West Virginia residents; a breakdown of jobs by race, ethnicity and gender; and a review of the number of jobs created for returning military veterans. The annual report was due to lawmakers by each Nov. 1.
However, the first report, submitted last year, makes no mention of the residency status of workers in the Marcellus Shale gas fields.