KEYSER - West Virginia energy was the topic of a Mineral County Chamber of Commerce luncheon held Thursday at the new chamber office on North Main Street in Keyser.

For the News Tribune
KEYSER - West Virginia energy was the topic of a Mineral County Chamber of Commerce luncheon held Thursday at the new chamber office on North Main Street in Keyser.
State Senator Randy Smith, chairman of the Senate Energy, Industry, and Mining Committee, led the conversation that included participants from Dominion Power (Peter Balkus, Mt. Storm Power Plant), Laurel Partners (David Friend and Jim Cookman, wind turbine field developers), and the Mettiki Coal Mine (employer of Senator Smith).
First Energy (Potomac Edison) was represented by Thomas Butcher in such a conversation a few weeks earlier with Elk Garden mayor Marian Droppleman, relating to the establishment of the Elk Garden Miners' Museum.
Three of Mineral County's mayors were in the conversation: Ben Smith from Piedmont; Dwight “Casey” Lambert from Carpendale; and Marian Droppleman from Elk Garden. Along with many of the new chamber and CVB board members, all of the Mineral County Commissioners were present.
The preeminence of West Virginia in energy production for the US was the focus of the conversation. Statistics provided to the group from the Senator, Bill Raney, president of the WV Coal Association, and Greg Norman, WV Office of Miners Health Safety and Training, were employed to begin to shape a public message indicating that West Virginia is No. 1 in bituminous coal production in the U.S., No. 1 in all coal production east of the Mississippi River; No. 2 in all coal production across the U.S. second only to Wyoming; No. 1 in the U.S. for implementation of new coal  mining safety initiatives; # 4 in energy production for the US; No. 7 in production of natural gas; ahead of 34 states in the production of wind energy.
And these statistics are just the first of many facts that are being assembled by chamber board members from research with the help of the state's strong pro-energy legislative leadership and energy industry associations.
Earlier in the day, U.S. Representative David McKinley addressed the Elk Garden Town Council and Mayor, and shortly afterward the public at the fire hall, reporting the final passage just last Friday in the House of a Senate bill sponsored by Senator Joe Manchin to license the construction of a hydroelectric plant at Jennings Randolph Lake.
This additional power source that promises to employ many Mineral County construction workers will provide enough electricity to power approximately 6,000 homes.
Follow-up to the chamber energy conversation with the Senator is planned for the Sept. 15 Energy Expo in Elk Garden, during which the first contributions to the new Miners' Museum will be showcased. All participating in the conversation were asked to represent their unique diverse energy contribution to the state in the Expo as a strong collaborative force accomplishment that brings West Virginia to the top of the list in energy production for the US. Coal mining, timber harvesting, natural gas exploration and production, wind energy generation, hydroelectric power, oil production and solar energy production will be exhibited with industry representatives joining state legislative leadership at the event.
A caterer new to the chamber,  Good Carma Catering, provided the lunch. Donnie Carmen, a Fort Ashby musician, performed at the beginning of the lunch that was sponsored by an Elk Garden business, Green Mountain Enterprise.
The chamber conversation concluded with agreement that building the right message about the historic and current strength of West Virginia energy production for the nation is an important step forward in accuracy and effect for all around our country to realize: West Virginia Energy is a major reason why there is power available for all of us when we reach to plug in or flip on the switch.