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Groups Oppose Monroe County Ethane Storage Facility in Online Forum

Plans for a Mountaineer Natural Gas Liquids storage facility near the Ohio River in Monroe County are raising fears of pollution and long-term damage to the area and its people.

A virtual meeting was held Thursday evening in which environmental groups shared information and comments, with the overall goal of telling the public to reach out to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources during a 30-day comment period that ends Feb. 6.

PTT Global Chemical America has reached an agreement with Mountaineer NGL, which intends to use salt caverns to store liquid components of the local natural gas stream, such as ethane, underground. That ethane would serve as feedstock for a PTTGCA ethane cracker plant if it is built as proposed a few miles to the north. A final investment decision about the cracker has been postponed indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The meeting was hosted by groups including Concerned Ohio River Residents, the Buckeye Environmental Network, The Ohio River Valley Institute, the Freshwater Accountability Project, and EarthJustice. Barnesville resident Jill Hunkler outlined concerns about what the activists fear a storage facility could bring to the Ohio Valley.

“This facility would develop underground caverns for the storage of natural gas liquids,” she said. “These materials are highly flammable. Many have explosive compounds and are used in the petrochemical production. This site is very problematic.”

She pointed out the location is near Clarington in Monroe County and in close proximity to drinking water supplies. She said the facility would hold up to 3.25 million gallons of material.

“And stored adjacent to and potentially under the Ohio River and pose a significant threat to public health and the environment,” she said.

Megan Hunter, staff attorney with EarthJustice, said the 30-day period for public comment to ODNR ends Feb. 6 and the agency can be reached at oilandgas@dnr.ohio.gov or by calling 614-265-6937. A form letter can be found online at bit.ly/MountaineerNGL.

After the session, Mike Chadsey, director of public relations with the Ohio Oil & Gas Association which advocates for the industry, said many of these fears were unfounded, chiefly due to the composition of ethane, which he said is inherently safer since it is made of methane, butane, ethane and propane.

“They’re trying to use fear, uncertainty and doubt to stop economic progress,” Chadsey said.

He said the cracker plant the storage site would support would generate significant employment and tax dollars for the Shadyside Local School District through production of useful plastic projects. He said the cracker plant site was also carefully chosen to maximize safety.

“No dart was thrown on a map,” he said. “Geological studies were done.”

A recording of the meeting itself can be viewed at bit.ly/MountaineerVideo.

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