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As Industry Pushes Billion-Dollar Fracked Petrochemical Projects, State Regulators Struggle To Keep Up

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Source:  desmogblog

“Pollution from petrochemicals is already a major issue, Food and Water Watch noted in a report last year on the coming build-out. “In 1999, when Houston’s ozone levels were the highest in the nation, the state of Texas conducted several studies that found large industrial leaks,” that report found. “The worst originated from cracker plants producing ethylene and propylene.”

By Sharon Kelly

Fueled by fracking in the region, petrochemical and plastics projects in the Ohio River Valley are attracting tens of billions of dollars in investment, but as plans for this build-out hit the drawing boards, signs already are emerging that state regulators are unprepared for this next wave of industrialization. And the implications of their inexperience could mean major threats to the region’s health and environment.

One of the projects currently underway, an underground natural gas liquids (NLG) storage site — designed to support the construction of several huge petrochemical complexes — is undergoing review by state regulators who have little experience with NGL storage facilities of its size.

“We had to juggle a lot of regulatory input in a relatively undefined setting since there are few regulations in Ohio, and that really goes for Pennsylvania and West Virginia as well,” Jonathan Farrell, a project manager with Civil and Environmental Consultants, told attendees at a petrochemical industry conference on June 18.

That lack of well-established state regulations harkens back to the early days of the shale gas rush, when state regulators struggled to keep up with the emergence of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and horizontal drilling technologies. The rush to drill while safeguards were still being designed and implemented led to inadequately treated toxic waste being dumped into drinking water supplies for millions of people and problems with radioactive waste that continue to this day.

Dreams of a New Petrochemical Corridor

Shell’s ethane cracker petrochemical plant under construction on the banks of the Ohio River. Credit: Ashley Braun, DeSmog

Today, the petrochemical industry is dreaming big about prospects for manufacturing plastics, styrofoam, vinyl, chemicals, and fertilizers from cheap ethane and other natural gas liquids from the Marcellus Shale — marketed as currently the cheapest in the world.

The goal? To build a new petrochemical corridor in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, and the surrounding region, one second only in size to the Gulf Coast’s — and one that could bring along with it the public health and environmental impacts that have given rise to that region’s reputation as a “cancer alley.”

I think the magnitude of some of these projects that we’re talking about here are hard for a lot of us and a lot of our communities to wrap their head around,” Chad Riley, CEO of The Thrasher Group, an oil and gas field and pipeline services firm, said at the June 18-19 conference. “I really think that this region lacks a bit of an understanding about what the potential could be here.”

Fracking for Plastics

Shale drillers in the Marcellus and Utica have long talked up the potential profits to be made from drilling for “wet gas,” or wells that produce large volumes of natural gas liquids like ethane, propane, and butane. Those liquid fossil fuels offer additional sources of revenue, making the shale drilling industry better able to cope with depressed prices for natural gas, which is mostly methane, that the wells primarily produce.

For the shale industry, the need to create demand for those products is fueling the push to create new petrochemical and plastics plants that can buy up the liquids coming from fracked wells. The Appalachian region currently produces roughly a third of the domestic supply of NGLs, or roughly a million barrels a day.  Read the rest of this article HERE.

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Lissa Lucas Dragged Out of West Virginia House Judiciary Hearing For Listing Oil and Gas Contributions

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Source:  Counterpunch.org

Lissa Lucas traveled the 100 miles from her home in Cairo, West Virginia to the state capitol in Charleston yesterday to testify against an oil and gas industry sponsored bill (HB 4268) that would allow companies to drill on minority mineral owners’ land without their consent.

Lucas began to testify to the House Judiciary Committee, but a few minutes in, her microphone was turned off.

And Lucas was dragged out of the room.

Lucas is running for the House of Delegates from Ritchie County, which has been overrun by the fracking industry.

“As I tried to give my remarks at the public hearing this morning on HB 4268 in defense of our constitutional property rights, I got dragged out of House chambers,” Lucas said. “Why? Because I was listing out who has been donating to Delegates on the Judiciary Committee.”

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE HERE.

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