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WVU College of Law conference to explore natural gas economic growth

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An upcoming free conference organized by the West Virginia University College of Law will focus on policies that would stimulate the demand for natural gas to stabilize domestic prices at economically viable levels.

Hosted by the College of Law's Center for Energy and Sustainable Development, Energy Conference 2013: Natural Gas as the Bridge to Sustainability and Economic Growth will be held Wednesday, April 24, starting at 8:30 a.m. at WVU's Erickson Alumni Center.

The conference will feature more than a dozen experts from the public and private sectors addressing the responsible use and further development of shale gas resources. The keynote speaker is Dave McCurdy, president and CEO of the American Gas Association and a former seven-term congressman from Oklahoma. The conference is sponsored by Steptoe & Johnson PLLC.

"The natural gas industry has developed to the point that a pressing issue now is the responsible use of shale gas resources that are under development in the region and around the country," said Joyce McConnell, dean of the WVU College of Law. "We created the Center for Energy and Sustainable Development to explore these types of issues and bring an unbiased discussion of natural gas utilization issues to the people who can best use that information."

Shale gas development holds the promise of great economic and sustainability benefits, said center Director James Van Nostrand.

"However, the shale gas industry has been too successful for its own good," Van Nostrand said. "Technological advances in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have resulted in an over-supply of natural gas. As a result, natural gas prices have dropped to levels that jeopardize the continued expansion of the domestic natural gas industry, potentially denying West Virginia and region of the benefits of developing the Marcellus Shale."

In West Virginia, low prices for natural gas also have resulted in severance tax shortfalls that contribute to the state's fiscal challenges, according to Van Nostrand.

The College of Law's energy conference will discuss lower fuel costs and cleaner air through the use of compressed natural gas, or CNG, and liquefied natural gas, or LNG, for transportation; boosting energy efficiency through combined heat and power for industrial electricity customers; improving the international trade balance by exporting natural gas; and revitalizing the region's chemical industry.

Featured speakers at the conference include WVU President Jim Clements; Keith Burdette, cabinet secretary for the West Virginia Department of Commerce; Hallie Mason, chair of the Governor's Natural Gas Vehicle Task Force; Kevin DiGregorio, director of the Chemical Alliance Zone; Steven B. Hedrick, president and CEO of MATRIC; and Kathryn Clay, executive director of the DRIVE NATURAL GAS Initiative.

Other expert panelists include Robert Orndorff, managing director of State and Local Government Affairs, Dominion Resources; Matt S. White, regulatory attorney, IGS Energy; Dick Munson, Senior Vice President for Public Affairs, Recycled Energy Development; Cheryl Roberto, former commissioner of Public Utilities Commission of Ohio; Dr. Vignesh Gowrishankar, Sustainable Energy Fellow at the Natural Resources Defense Council; Bruce McKay, managing director for Federal Affairs, Dominion Resources; and Jane P. Michalek, vice president of Concentric Energy Advisors.

Energy Conference 2013: Natural Gas as the Bridge to Sustainability and Economic Growth is free and open to the public but pre-registration is required. For more information or to register,  visit energy.law.wvu.edu/energy2013 or call (304) 293-0064.