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Cracker Plant Will Be Safe, Good for Our Area

A recent edition of The Intelligencer featured a column criticizing an industry that is leading job creation in the Mid-Ohio Valley and has saved families and businesses across the Valley over $75 billion on our utility bills in just the past 10 years.

The article focuses on the proposed PPTGC/Daelim ethane cracker plant across the Ohio river in Belmont County. The plant will create construction jobs that the author inaccurately critiques as being “short-lived.” Construction jobs may be relatively “short-lived,” but this leads to full-time jobs the author did not mention. The Belmont County cracker plans have increased the scale of this project, and it may now be larger than the Shell cracker nearing completion near Pittsburgh, which will offer 7,400 permanent jobs. We’ll get more than our fair share regionally.

Moreover, the Belmont cracker has the potential to expand future construction jobs for decades as ethane customers build manufacturing plants throughout our Shale Crescent region (PA, OH and WV) to take advantage of the new supply chain. This will lead to additional opportunities for workers who will build the next generation of infrastructure projects including bridges, roads and expanded sewer and water lines.

What may seem temporary to a few in our community will be full-time construction jobs for many of us, with manufacturers creating local, lifetime jobs much like those that supported our parents and grandparents.

Federal and state regulations, which are the strictest in the world, guide the permitting, construction and operation of these facilities. This ensures we have the most advanced, safest, environmentally-sound facilities ever built.

It’s been noted that our Shale Crescent region can support up to five ethane crackers with the volume of natural gas liquids we can produce. A recent study by IHS Markit, commissioned by Shale Crescent USA forecasts that our region is the most cost-effective location globally for advanced manufacturers who can take advantage of these facilities. Greg Kozera, Shale Crescent USA’s marketing director, noted that our region will supply 45 percent of the nation’s natural gas production by 2040. Just as important, we are within 700 miles of 70 percent of the domestic market for these products, which we rely on for our modern society.

When we use the natural gas and other petrochemicals like ethane that we produce here at home, we’re able to create new opportunities in our communities. We’re also able to save transportation costs.

This reduces the environmental impact of transportation-associated emissions, which occur when we send our energy to the Gulf Coast, or elsewhere globally, and then bring the finished products back here.

These finished products, made from ethane-based building blocks, are used to help make our lives safer and our environment healthier. Some may not think about all of the products we repeatedly use that start at cracker plants around the world, but they should. Some of the end products we take for granted that start in ethane crackers include bike helmets, car seats for our kids, medical devices and smoke detectors. While we could live without them, it would drastically change our way of life, and I believe that the majority of us would not necessarily get rid of them, either.

Many products from this industry make our environment more sustainable, from the plastic lids on reusable cups and mugs to the fibers for reusable shopping bags. Even the lightweight material used for car parts help Americans meet more stringent emissions requirements by decreasing weight while still increasing mileage.

We are blessed with a rare, multi-generational opportunity that can provide our children and grandchildren with family-sustaining jobs here at home producing products for the things that enrich our lives.

We need to study the factual data and open our minds beyond the narrow/hypocritical view of the few anti-energy/anti-petrochemical extremist’s arguments. We need to honestly educate ourselves about the broad positive impact our natural resources can deliver to us regionally for generations to follow.

Miller is executive director of the West Virginia Route 2/I-68 Authority. He formerly served as a Marshall County commissioner.

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