Robin Blakeman, Vivian Stockman: Gas storage hub a field of nightmares

By By Robin Blakeman and Vivian Stockman

For more than a century, we’ve been promised jobs and prosperity by one fossil fuel or chemical industry after another, and yet where are we? We are consistently one of the poorest and unhealthiest states in the nation.

Can we learn our lesson? Or, are we really going to use taxpayer money to study the prospect of an “Appalachian Gas Storage Hub?” Senators Manchin and Capito are lauding this monstrosity as the next great thing for our state.

As currently proposed, the Appalachian Gas Storage Hub would consist of a network of underground storage caverns and six large-diameter pipelines for natural gas liquids, such as ethane and butane. It would run nearly the entire length of West Virginia’s western border, along the Ohio River, with a spur extending into the Kanawha Valley to transport products from a proposed cracker plant in the Charleston area.

In the Huntington area, this mammoth project would cross paths with two other large projects: the Columbia/TransCanada Mountaineer and Leach Xpress pipelines. Together, these eight large-diameter pipelines would travel to, through or near the Marathon Petroleum refinery via connector lines. This would make the Huntington area a probable location for many petrochemical processing facilities, as well as plenty of air-quality and water-pollution issues.

Such a project would endanger the drinking water for millions of people whose tap water source is the Ohio River or one of the major tributaries of the Ohio. The proposed project would also lead to an exponential increase in deep shale gas fracking, including under the Ohio River and near its borders and major tributaries.

Do we really want to accelerate deep shale hydraulic fracturing and related activities, when those activities have already driven at least one community to the brink of extinction (Mobley, in Wetzel County) and when neighbors to these operations are already facing threats to their air and water? Do we really want to subject neighbors of the storage hub to all the pollution and dangers such a facility would create? Do we want to continue being a fossil-fuel colony, when all around the world, truly cleaner energy and more sustainable practices are burgeoning?

One might wonder why “our” politicians want to remake West Virginia into something akin to Louisiana’s Cancer Alley, but all we have to do is follow the money. These politicians ignore their constituents when we try to tell them that industry is polluting our water. They apparently haven’t traveled much in north-central West Virginia, where replacement water tanks (“water buffaloes”) are a common sight in communities near gas fracking operations. These politicians are apparently more beholden to the fossil-fuel industries and lobbyists that fund their campaigns than to the average person in West Virginia.

Surely, we can come up with a better vision for West Virginia’s future! We could invest in solar projects on our already-ruined lands (but not use that as an excuse for one more square inch of mountaintop-removal coal mining). Or, thinking creatively, could we take all that money that would prop up the toxic Appalachian Gas Storage Hub and set up small business incubators, giving out microloans to entrepreneurial West Virginians?

It’s time to end the slavering over the fossil-fuel industries and their false promises of prosperity!

Robin Blakeman and Vivian Stockman work for the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition.

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