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Enviros to Fight WV Bill to Fund Natural-Gas Storage Hub

Environmentalists in West Virginia oppose the funding of a proposed natural gas storage facility in the state's Ohio Valley. (Adobe Stock)
Environmentalists in West Virginia oppose the funding of a proposed natural gas storage facility in the state's Ohio Valley. (Adobe Stock)
January 9, 2020

CHARLESTON, W. Va. -- One of the first bills introduced in West Virginia's 2020 legislative session, which opened Wednesday, is by Republican House Speaker Roger Hanshaw to create a state investment fund to kickstart new businesses.

But environmental groups in the state oppose the bill because the fund's first project would be a giant underground natural gas storage plant called the Appalachian Storage Hub, according to Jim Kotcon, political chair of the Sierra Club West Virginia chapter.

Kotcon says the hub would store and transport natural gas liquids produced from fracking, such as ethane, which is used in making plastics.

"This would dramatically expand the use of fossil fuels and, in particular, natural gas drilling in West Virginia," he points out. "And we need to be reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, not increasing it."

The Appalachian Storage Hub has support from the state's congressional delegations and Gov. Jim Justice, who says it will bring much-needed jobs to the depressed Ohio Valley region and could turn West Virginia into a national economic center for the natural gas and plastics industries.

In the works for nearly a decade, the mammoth project is expected to cost as much as $10 billion for a plant that can hold 10 million barrels of natural gas liquid byproducts.

Kotcon says the nation has similar natural gas industrial centers, including one along the Mississippi River in Louisiana between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. He says that facility has emitted so much air and water pollution over the years that the surrounding area is called Cancer Valley.

"West Virginia already has very high cancer rates, and we have not seen anything to suggest that our industry would develop in any way safer than what's already being done elsewhere," he states.

A 2019 study by Harvard University's School of Public Health showed that more people in the nation live much closer to underground natural gas storage wells than previously thought, and that accidents at those facilities have caused fatalities, explosions and exposure to noxious odors.

Disclosure: Sierra Club, West Virginia Chapter contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Endangered Species & Wildlife, Environment, Public Lands/Wilderness. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Diane Bernard, Public News Service - WV