Nicolas Porta: How can Mountaineers truly be free? (Daily Mail)

October 14, 2016 

          Montani Semper Liberi is the official motto of West Virginia, which means “Mountaineers are always free.” It is a proud and strong motto, and it speaks to the spirit of West Virginians.
          In reality, however, the proud people of our state have not been free for years. During the years of the American Revolution, the primary goal of government was to “provide for the common defense” of our young nation. To truly regain the notion that “Mountaineers are always free,” we as West Virginians must come together and insist that our local and state elected officials “provide for the common defense” of our state economy, which can be accomplished through our emerging natural gas industry.
          With our dwindling population, shrinking economy and the growing dependence on prescription and illegal drugs, our people are not “free.” We have become dependent on government agencies in Washington, D.C., who will never fix West Virginia’s problems. To revitalize our state’s economy, our state and local leaders should work together to adopt a defensive mindset — to provide an economic “common defense” of West Virginia.
          The best way our state can defend itself is still by taking advantage of the abundant natural resources with which we have been blessed. Unfortunately, executive leaders in Washington seem adamant on killing our coal industry in West Virginia. Renewable energy sources, though, cannot come close to providing the amount of energy necessary to simply counterbalance the decline in coal.
          In West Virginia, we can still meet our nation’s energy needs, and coal can still have an important place. We must, however, redirect more of our state’s economic focus toward natural gas. Once the proper natural gas infrastructure is constructed, our state economy can be diversified through the opportunities natural gas can provide.
          The benefits that can come from sustained investment in oil and natural gas are plentiful. Pipelines constructed throughout our state will provide jobs and necessary infrastructure to transport the natural gas West Virginia companies produce to locations around the globe. Not only will we power our future, but we will power that of our allies in Europe, Japan and more.
          Additionally, much of the natural gas in our tri-state region is “wet” gas. This means there are extra hydrocarbons mixed with natural gas, such as propane, butane and ethane, all of which can be separated and used for many other products. Some of these can be used in the chemical industry, while others are critical for production and development of plastics.
With these resources, our Mid-Atlantic location and a little bit of state leadership, we should become a manufacturing mecca for all kinds of goods, and also a key logistics hub to transport our products via pipeline, interstate and waterways.
          Natural gas is known to be the cleanest fossil fuel in use today, and we are sitting on an abundance of it. I urge West Virginians and our elected officials to support pro-natural gas policies, and help energy companies in any way possible to develop West Virginia.
          Time is at a premium, as we are losing the war on coal, losing the war on drugs and ultimately losing our population. After serving in the U.S. Coast Guard for 10 years, I came home to West Virginia. Our state is special to me, and I want my kids to grow up in the same region with the same values I did.
          West Virginians are a proud people who believe in hard work and the values our nation was founded upon, not the values exhibited by Washington.
          It is time for West Virginia to commit to the exciting possibilities the oil and natural gas industry can bring to our state, and free our people from the dependence on executive leadership in Washington. Montani Semper Liberi!

Nicholas Porta is a Charleston native who serves as chairman of Vets4Energy.