Say no to storage hub

Appearing in The Parkersburg News and Sentinel:

Sunday, October 20, 2019 Letter-to-Editor by Eric Engle, Parkersburg, WV

An Oct. 2 editorial, “Storage Hub: Legislation should be a priority,” states West Virginia’s congressional delegation should continue making the Appalachian Storage Hub a top priority and supports recent legislation from West Virginia’s U.S. House of Representatives delegation to direct the Appalachian Regional Commission to provide funding to aid in creation of the Hub. This is dangerous nonsense for several reasons.

First off, the editorial itself mentions a reason why the storage hub shouldn’t be built anywhere: “having about 95 percent of U.S. ethylene production on the Gulf Coast is risky business.” Why does the writer think that is? Well, maybe it has something to do with the increased intensity of hurricane and precipitation events in the Gulf of Mexico caused by anthropogenic global climate change. Warmer air holds more moisture and warmer ocean surfaces provide energy to increase hurricane intensity. This is well-documented climate and atmospheric science. Why does this matter for the hub? Because the storage hub plays a huge part in the continued extraction and use of fossil fuels, contributing to the climate crisis. Methane, for example, is released at every stage of oil and gas development and use, even use for the petrochemicals industry, and methane is 86 times more efficient a heat-trapping greenhouse gas over a 20-year period than carbon dioxide.

Then there is the storage of natural gas liquids. The proposed hub involves storage of these liquids (i.e. butane, ethane) in underground caverns around and even under the Ohio River. These liquids are highly combustible, for one, and the Ohio River is a drinking water source for 5 million people and already the most contaminated waterway in the country for the last 7 years running. Do we really want these highly combustible liquids stored under or near our already highly contaminated river and transported via pipelines to cracker plants up and down the Ohio River Valley? And who really benefits from all of this liquid natural gas (LNG) production? The people of West Virginia? That MOU from China we’re not allowed to see for $84 billion might clarify, but I’m highly skeptical that the value-added benefits go to the people of our state. Our state’s history with extraction industries would suggest otherwise.

Finally, in case you haven’t noticed, we’re a world drowning in plastics that we cannot safely dispose of. The storage hub is not about energy production, as the editorialist obviously knows, it’s about the production of more plastics and polymers. No matter how you spin the industry-provided jobs and revenue numbers, that plastic will end up in our oceans and other waterways and landfills and, well, everywhere (microplastics have been found in the deepest depths of the oceans and the most remote corners of the Arctic). Can we completely do away with plastics tomorrow? No. But 40 percent of the plastics market consists of single-use plastics we can do away with and engineering biodegradable plastics substitutes is the kind of thing Appalachian Regional Commission funds ought to go toward, not a massive increase in plastics production.

We need to say no to the Appalachian Storage Hub! For vital information on the hub and other oil, gas and petrochemicals issues, visit the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition website at

Eric Engle