Regulators tracking pollution

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Although an ethane cracker with a price tag approaching $10 billion would bring thousands of jobs to Belmont County, it would also bring a variety of air pollutants.

Residents will get the opportunity to comment on the air quality permit being sought by PTT, according to Ohio Environmental Protection Agency Director Craig Butler.

According to the permit Royal Dutch Shell filed with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection a few years ago for its ethane cracker north of Pittsburgh, air pollutants likely associated with an ethane cracker include nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxide, sulfur oxides, volatile organic compounds, ammonia, carbon dioxide equivalents, xylene and benzene.

Last year, the Ohio EPA issued a permit allowing PTT Global Chemical to discharge wastewater into the Ohio River. Information the agency provided shows PTT would discharge industrial water, cooling water, sanitary wastewater and stormwater connected to industrial activity into the river.

Butler also said the agency continues working with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to ensure the safety of Marcellus and Utica shale wells, from which ethane and natural gas are drawn. He said officials are still working to determine what went wrong at the XTO Energy Schnegg well near Powhatan Point, an operation that leaked methane into the atmosphere for nearly three weeks.

“It will be a very complex investigation. We will go through an assessment process to determine if there are any violations,” Butler said.

Butler said the response of regulators, emergency officials and the company was “significantly better” in comparison to the December 2014 well blowout at a Magnum Hunter Resources operation near Sardis.

“We, along with the company and the other agencies, will try to learn what went wrong to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” he added.