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Basing cracker plant policy on the facts

It says something about the prospects for ethane cracker plants that Shell Chemical, after a short break due to COVID-19, has resumed construction of one near Monaca, Pa.

Shell executives seem confident. The governors of West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania are being urged to abandon hope regarding cracker plants, however.

The governors have been sent a letter by a group of people who oppose construction of another cracker, this one in Belmont County. PTT Global Chemical America and Daelim Chemical USA have spent a substantial amount on site preparation.

PTT-DLM has delayed a formal announcement on whether construction will proceed. But if those who wrote to the governors have their say, any additional local or state government support of the project will be withheld.

Instead of banking on a cracker plant and plastics manufacturing, our region would be served better by “establishing policies that attract clean energy investments,” commented one of the letter’s signers, James Van Nostrand. He is director of the Center for Energy and Sustainable Development at West Virginia University’s College of Law.

In fact, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, which prepared a report critical of the cracker proposal, lists its mission as “to accelerate the transition to a diverse, sustainable and profitable energy economy.” Nostrand and the other letter writers urge Govs. Jim Justice of West Virginia, Mike DeWine of Ohio and Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania that instead of supporting cracker plants, they ought to consider “the clean energy economy — electric vehicles, energy storage, wind power, solar power, and energy efficiency…”

Far from being a simple campaign to inform the governors of the economics of ethane cracker plants, then, the letter is one pushing the writers’ own agenda.

Whether PTT-DLM will proceed with the Belmont County cracker plant is anyone’s guess. No doubt the partnership’s executives have their own feasibility studies — based on facts and sober, objective analysis rather than an attempt to promote social change.

Should PTT-DLM elect to proceed, the decision will be based on the best, most unbiased information the partnership can obtain. Govs. DeWine, Justice and Wolf should set their own policies on the same basis.

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