Potential Storage Hub Concerns Expressed at TCDA Meeting
The recently discussed Appalachian Storage Hub Study and Prospects project was a topic of concern, for some, at the Tyler County Development Authority meeting held last week at the Tyler County courthouse.
TCDA board member Eric Peters said there has not been much change in the potential project since the authority’s last meeting. He reminded meeting attendees that there are three primary salt cavern locations identified as potential storage sites, one being in Tyler County. Furthermore, he noted, a storage hub does not necessarily mean one site; the site could consist of a piping network between multiple locations.
Those spearheading the potential project have submitted Phase One plans. A $1.9 billion dollar loan guarantee, for the project, has been requested. Organizers have been invited to submit the Phase Two application. However, it could take years before the loan is guaranteed. The Polymer Alliance Zone will be having its annual planning meeting in February, and the chairman of the group – who has presented the Phase One and Two applications – has been invited to speak.
There was a collection of people gathered at the TCDA meeting to voice concerns over the Storage Hub project, for fear of possible environmental damages. Dustin White, organizer of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, stated he is concerned about the petrochemical storage, due to potential damages. He discussed petrochemical buildup, and he feels that with five cracker plants – and a line stretching from Beaver, Pa. to Huntington, W.Va., there will be a valley of pollution created. He referenced mines in Louisiana that have collapsed in the past, and when compared, he feels that the caverns in West Virginia are even more shallow. He mentioned that the Ohio River is the drinking water source for 3 to 5 million people and that leaks do occur from underground storage. White said there is the possibility of gas escaping from these caverns and settling in the valley, which could accidentally be ignited. White feels that these are just a few examples of the risks, outweighing the advantages,and that it is not a matter of “if,” but “when,” a disaster will occur. He added that it has only been a couple of months since the plastics plant in Parkersburg burned for more than a week. White said similar storage facilities will come along with the storage hubs.
Elaine Taylor, project director for Friends for Environmental Justice, stated that in Texas, when the hurricanes came through, the petrochemical plants did not get shut down.
Taylor feels developers would want to move these plants to the Ohio Valley, out of hurricane territory. Taylor said foreign companies are the ones investing billions of dollars into the infrastructure in the United States, and the companies would not do so without a guarantee that there will be a product to send overseas.
“All of this is being done, so that these companies can make money out of this country, while putting our people in harm’s way. I’d really like you to consider anything that comes this direction, because West Virginia owns the water in the Ohio River, over to the Ohio shore. If anything were to happen, Ohio could come back on West Virginia saying that we knew of the potential damages,” explained Taylor.
Jimmy Holler, a member of Friends for Environmental Justice, stated that he felt that these projects are supposed to bring about jobs for the communities, but he said he sees so many workers from Texas and Oklahoma, and out-of-state companies, coming in and taking all of the jobs. He feels the members of the community should be the ones benefiting from these jobs.
Eric Peters explained that the development authority is not a regulating agency, and many of the final decisions are not up to the authority. He stated if a company approaches a private landowner, that happens to own the surface and underground facilities, then the authority can’t do anything about that. “We are limited in what we can do by state code, by charter, and by bylaws. What I’ve done, at best, is to try to keep folks informed of what is going on in terms of industrial development. No one has asked me about the environmental issues of it,” stated Peters. He also explained that the emergency plan would be handled by the Office of Emergency Management.
Tyler County resident Chris Hoke mentioned that the OEM consists of many volunteers that do not have the training to handle some of the potential dangers that could arise from these storage hubs. She said she feels there should be trained personnel that comes along with the hubs. Peters explained, “That is the case with our existing industries. Momentive, Proviron and Real Alloy have their own emergency personnel.” Peters continued, “We are comfortable that the companies we already have are engaged and prepared, but I grant you, we would be talking about something on a much larger scale.”
White explained that his group’s primary goal was to get out and educate people as much as possible.
In other news, there were originally supposed to be two submissions for a recreational trails application. One was for the canoe trail at the Jug in Middlebourne and the other was for paving seven-tenths of a mile on the walking trail in Sistersville. Unfortunately, the canoe trail has been put on hold because, without direct involvement with the Department of Highways, there was no way to submit the filing. There were too many missing pieces, so the Development Authority will begin to get the DOH engaged in the project. The initial planning has been done, and there has been a cost estimate but there are permits that needed applied for that could not be done at this time. Peters added, “Unless they are going to do the dam, the low water bridge, and raise that with the wind walls in, then there is no sense in moving further with the canoe trail,” He explained that the development authority can help alleviate some of the expense of the building of the low water bridge, and so they will apply for that for next year with the DOH as a co-applicant.
Authority member Charles Delauder mentioned he would like to see the development of a program of micro loans for small businesses within the county. He wants come up with a plan to help small businesses expand, or create new business. Peters informed Delauder of two ways to go about that goal. There are micro loans available through the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Council, that anyone can apply for, up to $15,000. Also, other counties have set up their own loan system, and so Tyler County could look into funding its own loan program.
A Community Development Block Grant has been submitted, which is a $30,000 grant to be used toward the planning of broadband expansion. There have been two applications sent within the eight-county regional council, so there is a high potential of being awarded this grant. If the grant is approved, the development authority would have to establish a working group to go over the details of the expansion, or they could even contract a consultant. The state development office is treating broadband as a a vital infrastructure, such as water and sewer, so there is funding available to move forward with this project.
CSX was previously demanding payments in the amount of $10,000 this year, and $50,000 in subsequent years, if they did not reach, what they considered, an adequate amount of cars. However, CSX has not been pushing the topic any further recently. An inspector has recently checked the tracks and stated that they are in good condition. Two companies have looked into using the rails to haul materials off site, which would help keep rail numbers up, which could satisfy CSX. The development authority will charge these companies $100 per car for utilizing the rails system.
It was announced that the LED Grant has been received. The grant has been reduced from $30,000 to $20,000, but it was stated that the development authority might be able to lobby to get the funds back to the original $30,000.
The election officers for 2018 were established and they are as follows: Barbera Vincent, President; John Hopkins, Vice President; Ron George, Secretary; Jim McMullen, Treasurer. Also, the TCDA welcomed new board members Brandon Chaddock and Chad Chaplin.
The next scheduled Tyler County Development Authority meeting is set for Feb. 15, beginning at 7 p.m. and located at the Tyler county Courthouse in Middlebourne.