Community leaders on both sides of the Ohio River want to ensure the local region is prepared if an ethane cracker plant proposed for Belmont County becomes a reality.
PTT Global Chemical America and its partner, Daelim Industrial Co., have acquired the necessary property and permits to build a petrochemical complex that could require an investment of up to $10 billion. One of the needed environmental permits has been challenged, and the companies are awaiting the results of the appeals process. There has been no official announcement yet regarding whether the plant will actually be built.
In hopes that an announcement to that effect will come soon, Belmont County Tourism Council, Wheeling Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Greater Moundsville Convention and Visitors Bureau hosted an event Thursday at Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack where community members could ask questions and learn more about the proposed plant and about other communities that have experienced similar development.
If it is constructed, the cracker plant will be located in Dilles Bottom near south of Shadyside. A cracker plant processes ethane, a liquid portion of the natural gas stream found throughout Eastern Ohio, to create ethylene and other components used to manufacture plastics and chemical products. Ethane is abundant in the local region, though the area currently lacks the facilities to process it.
Barb Ballint, Belmont County Tourism Council executive director, said the idea to have the community discussion came about when several local people attended a similar event in Washington, Pennsylvania.
We were intrigued by that event and felt that it was important for this area to have a similar event, Ballint said. We want to keep our communities informed about what could potentially happen with a cracker plant. I reached out to the other CVBs in the area not just Ohio, but across the river because we all going to be affected by this. Its important for us to be prepared and know what to expect. Im sure that there will be surprises along the way, Im certain. To be prepared and know, that is better than not knowing at all.
Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott said the potential for the cracker plant has influenced the city to upgrade underground water and sewer facilities so the city will have the right infrastructure to prepare for the plant and the people it would bring to the region. Colleges in the area such as Belmont College and West Virginia Northern Community College also are preparing by starting programs to help local residents find jobs in the natural gas and oil industry. Kuhn said these career fields will provide long-term jobs and can start with a $60,000 salary.
Representatives from Potter Township, Pennsylvania, attended the discussion to offer input because they are experiencing similar development with the Shell Chemical Appalachia LLC cracker plant that is under construction in Potter and Center townships in Beaver County.
If we are able to learn from one another and work together, I think that will be better for everyone, Matsco said.
We learned early about what was to come with our plant. I think it is worth sharing the information that we have.
Beaver County residents have learned that there are pros and cons for their communities related to the cracker plant. Matsco said there has been a rise in traffic, drugs and prostitution in that area. But Matsco said she believes the cracker plant has been more positive than negative and has created a large number of jobs for people in the area.
It is important to plan for this, especially at the municipal level, Matsco said. Having a plan gives us a road map forward. Without it, we will stumble.
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