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Ohio EPA Extends Air Permit for Proposed PTT Global Cracker Plant

DILLES BOTTOM _ The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency extended a permit that is necessary for PTT Global Chemical America to move ahead with plans to build an ethane cracker plant in Belmont County.

The air pollution permit-to-install, which was granted more than two years ago, initially was set to expire Tuesday; however, PTTGCA sought and received an extension that makes the permit valid through Feb. 24, 2022. PTTGCA filed for the extension on Feb. 19 of this year and received a letter dated Feb. 23 granting approval. The document explains that the extension is due, in part, to the fact that issuance of the permit was appealed.

“Ohio’s law historically required construction of the equipment covered by an air pollution PTI commence within eighteen months of the issuance of a final permit. In addition, the law allowed the PTI to be extended by up to twelve (12) months on a one-time basis from the date upon which it would have otherwise terminated,” the letter states.

“In 2009, the law was amended to extend the effective period of the permit by the time it takes to resolve an appeal. … This means that, under Ohio law, the expiration date of a PTI is now calculated by the sum of the initial eighteen-month period, plus the time taken to resolve the appeal, plus the one-year extension (if requested and granted). … The original eighteen-month time plus the 248-day appeal period runs until February 24, 2021. With the one-year administrative extension, the contingent expiration date becomes February 24, 2022.”

In addition, Anthony Chenault, media coordinator for the Northeast, Central and Southeast Districts of OEPA, said via email that the agency also is working with PTTGCA regarding additional permits. Pending action includes completion of a renewal application for a wastewater discharge permit, also known as a national pollutant discharge elimination system permit, that expires on Jan. 31, 2022. The completed renewal application is due to the Ohio EPA 180 days prior to the permit’s expiration.

Chenault said PTTGCA also has a water quality certification that expires Dec. 31, 2022.

“That permit will remain valid as long as the Department of the Army permit coinciding permit is valid,” he wrote.

Dan Williamson, spokesman for PTTGCA, stressed that the air permit-to-install is still valid and that the company remains committed to the project.

“PTTGCA’s permit to install has not expired,” Williamson said via email. “Ohio law (ORC §3704.03 (F)(2)(b)(iv)) provides a statutory extension for a PTI when the PTI is the subject of an appeal by a third party, as was the case for PTTGCA’s PTI.

That extension is for the number of days from the date the appeal was filed until the appeal was dismissed. In this case, the appeal lasted for 248 days which extended the PTI until February 24, 2022. This extension was affirmed by Ohio EPA’s final action dated February 23, 2021.”

A cracker plant is an industrial facility that uses heat and chemical processes to “crack” or break down ethane to produce ethylene, a component of plastics and other products such as textiles, paint, household cleaners and more.

If the PTTGCA plant is constructed, it will use locally produced natural gas to fuel its six furnaces. Ethane is one of the abundant “wet gas” components of the local natural gas stream drawn from the Utica and Marcellus shales.

Opponents of the project on Tuesday said passage of the permit’s original expiration date “represents the latest hurdle in a years-long series” of delays and casts doubt on the future of the project.

Ben Hunkler, representing the Concerned Ohio River Residents with input from the FracTracker Alliance, released a statement pointing to PTTGCA’s continuing search for an investment partner. He wrote that these combined factors are “raising further doubts that parent company PTT Global Chemical America (PTTGCA) will ever break ground on the project.”

Williamson, though, said the project remains a “top priority of the company,” adding that company officials remain “very actively engaged” in efforts to build an ethane cracker at Dilles Bottom at the former site of the FirstEnergy R.E. Burger coal-fired power plant.

Previous reports have indicated that the project represents an overall investment of $10 billion and could create thousands of temporary jobs during construction, as well as a few hundred permanent jobs once the facility is in operation.

It also is expected to attract additional investment to the region, in the form of businesses that would rely on the plant for feedstock as well as businesses that would meet the needs of the workers.

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