West Virginia Will Not Be Better Off With a Petrochemical Complex

by admin on June 12, 2018

The accidents and pollution continue ...

Petrochemical complex not good for West Virginia

By Dustin White, Opinion – Editorial, Charleston Gazette, June 8, 2018

Recently, we’ve been seeing a lot of opinion pieces and articles in the local media telling us how great the proposed Appalachian Storage and Trading Hub will be for our economy.

While the name of the proposed hub sounds benign, it’s anything but.

The project is a massive petrochemical complex that will rival the area known as “Cancer Alley” in Louisiana and will make the current Chemical Valley in Charleston look minuscule.

This new Cancer Alley in our region is being neatly packaged and sold to us by a select group of individuals seeking to make themselves rich at the cost of our health and economic well-being. The primary focus of this hub is to store and refine fracked gas liquids to manufacture more plastics, in a world already drowning in plastics.

First, a big incentive to build this petrochem infrastructure in West Virginia is a $83.7 billion Memorandum of Understanding with China. The Trump administration, with state government backing, signed this MOU last November without any input from the people of West Virginia.

I don’t know about you, but I would like to be consulted before being sold to another country. This MOU has still yet to be released to the public, even after several Freedom of Information Act requests on the state and federal levels.

At the signing in China was our very own commerce secretary, Woody Thrasher. In what is obviously a conflict of interest, Thrasher still owns 70 percent of the Thrasher Group, which is a contractor for oil and gas fracking infrastructure and other projects that would feed this plastic manufacturing monster.

Then there is WVU professor Brian Anderson. Anderson lends his professional title as director of WVU’s Energy Institute to scholarly studies supporting the hub. Anderson is also one of the chief principals for the Appalachian Development Group LLC — the primary group signed on to the China MOU. The ADG is responsible for the initial concept and marketing phase and is owned jointly by the Mid-Atlantic Technology, Research and Innovation Center (MATRIC) and the WVU Innovation Corporation. ADG has also been invited to apply for a $1.9 billion loan from the Department of Energy, meaning taxpayer dollars will be tapped for this complex.

West Virginia’s congressional delegation on both sides of the aisle have not only publicly promoted the hub and introduced several pieces of legislation in Congress to support and fast track this boondoggle, but they also have received tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions this election cycle from oil, gas and petrochemical companies.

Joe Manchin received a $10,000 campaign donation from the American Chemistry Council after he introduced the Appalachian Ethane Storage Study Act of 2017, according to opensecrets.org. In turn, the American Chemistry Council, along with other interested parties, deployed a team of lobbyists in D.C. to work on the bills our delegation has sponsored.

Most recently, we have seen opinion pieces in support of the petrochem hub from the likes of former state legislator Brooks McCabe and former congressional candidate Howard Swint, both of whom could be in a position to make money from the project. McCabe is a commercial realtor who owns land with depleted gas wells near the Kanawha State Forest, in hub “areas of interest.” These areas have potential for storage of volatile fracked gas liquids awaiting transport to refineries. Swint is a commercial property broker.

So, people who appear set to line their own pockets are waging a P.R. campaign to promote a mega-petrochemical complex as a shiny, fabulous game-changer for our state. But it is just the same old, deadly game: We sacrifice our water and land and health to a fossil fuel industry.

To make things even worse, these hucksters are using the state’s economic hard times — from the downturn of the coal industry — to manipulate the public into thinking this project is a good thing.

We deserve better than opportunistic profiteers looking to get rich off another round of suffering for ordinary West Virginians.

>>> Dustin White is project coordinator with the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, which is based in Huntington.



Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: