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Environmental groups sue to invalidate permits for ethane storage project in Ohio

 The Mountaineer Storage Hub would feed the proposed PTTGC ethane cracker in Belmont County, Ohio, shown here on April, 2020.
Courtesy of FracTracker Alliance
The Mountaineer Storage Hub would feed the proposed PTTGC ethane cracker in Belmont County, Ohio, shown here on April, 2020.

Environmental groups filed a lawsuit late Tuesday in Ohio challenging the creation of a storage field for natural gas liquids.

The Mountaineer Storage Hub would help feed the petrochemical buildout in the region, like Shell’s ethane cracker in Beaver County. Mountaineer already has an agreement to provide ethane to a petrochemical plant, proposed by PTTGCA of Thailand along the Ohio River, if that plant is built.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources [ODNR], approved drilling permits in August for the Powhatan Salt Company to construct three underground injection wells near Clarington on the Ohio River. The company intends to create the underground storage caverns to store natural gas liquids, including ethane, butane and propane.

Caverns like this have leaked elsewhere, causing “explosions, fires, extensive property damage, severe injuries, and loss of human life, jeopardizing public health and safety,” according to the lawsuit.

Concerns about water

Attorney Megan Hunter of EarthJustice, who represents the environmental groups and clean water advocates in the lawsuit, said one concern is the protection of nearby sources of drinking water. She claims the company or the state has not done a detailed enough analysis to make sure they are protected. And the concern about that is how do you protect these underground sources of drinking water if you haven’t even mapped where they’re located in the project area and examined potential migration pathways?” Hunter said.

In the August 30, 20201 response to public comments, ODNR stated that it “evaluated each known [drinking] water well in close proximity to each proposed solution mining well,” and found the construction of the wells would be protective of the drinking water wells.

The department would not comment on the current lawsuit. The company did not respond to a request for comment.

The lawsuit seeks to stop the project from moving forward.

We’re asking the court to cancel the permits, so to find ODNR disregarded the law here and abused its discretion and issued permits that it could not issue,” Hunter said.

Read more from our partners, The Allegheny Front.

Julie Grant is senior reporter with The Allegheny Front, covering food and agriculture, pollution, and energy development in Pennsylvania and Ohio. Throughout her career, she has traveled as far as Egypt and India for stories, trawled for mussels in the Allegheny River, and got sick in a small aircraft while viewing a gas well pad explosion in rural Ohio. Julie graduated from Miami University of Ohio and studied land ethics at Kent State University. She can be reached at julie@alleghenyfront.org.
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