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PTT cracker plant could still be a possibility

T-L Photos/ROBERT A. DEFRANK Ohio Sen. Frank Hoagland, R-Mingo Junction, left, talks to Scott Owens, senior project adviser of LNE Group, the liaison between PTT Global Chemical and local entities, and Mead Township Trustee Clyde Hammond, right, during a Tuesday meeting of the Belmont County Township Trustees Association. Owens gave an update on the possibility that an ethane cracker plant might come to the Dilles Bottom area along Ohio 7.

SHADYSIDE — The possibility of an ethane cracker plant coming to the Dilles Bottom area along Ohio 7 is still on the horizon after eight years of waiting, stalled by world events.

The Belmont County Township Trustees Association heard a report Tuesday about the state of the project from Thailand-based PTT Global Chemical. Scott Owens, is senior project adviser of the LNE Group, the liaison between PTT and local entities. He gave a brief update on the state of the project and what the future might hold.

“There’s not a whole lot of change. They’re still working on a partnership. We’re working closely with JobsOhio still. The project leaders are still very supportive of this project, the site,” he said.

However, he said issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and concerns about the economy continue to stymie and delay any progress. The matter was further complicated when PTT’s then-partner, Daelim Chemical USA, withdrew, and PTT is still seeking other partners.

“They’re having ongoing conversation with potential international partners. Companies are exploring this project and other projects,” he said.

He said they still work very closely with JobsOhio.

Owens also said the company has invested $350 million in the area during the past eight years. This includes investing in the Shadyside Local School District and Mead Township.

“The project still remains a priority. They’re still working closely with the investors, but I will be the first to tell you with some of the things that have gone on with the economy, the war in Ukraine and other things, there are large strategic companies that look at this project and they also look at other projects and say: ‘When is the right time to invest in a project of this size? To be a potential 50-percent partner?'”

Owens said a final investment decision had been considered for July 2020.

“If we hadn’t had COVID three years ago, we would be in Year 3 of construction of a five-year construction,” he said.

“They still remain very supportive. They’re still interested in the project and doing the project, but it comes down to finding that partner,” he said.

Owens said PTT is working on other projects in the United States, including a mechanical recycling project in Central Ohio and a carbon capture project on the Gulf Coast.

“PTT continues to invest dollars here in the U.S.,” he stressed.

He said if the project truly dies, the public will hear of it directly from PTT, not from any rumors.

“They are still working on how to proceed,” he said. “We appreciate the work that’s been done. We appreciate the partnership.”

Mead Township Trustee Ed Good said the township has worked well with PTT. He said it leases the township garage and an office building for $1 per month on land PTT has purchased.

He added that the township trustees receive many inquires from residents about the state of the project.

In answer to a question from Matt Coffland, a member of the board for the OR&W Fire District, Owens and Good said the past three presidential administrations have been helpful and supportive of the project, but an international company will also look at current events and politics and consider possible unknowns before investing in the project in the United States.

Other guests included U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, who spoke about advances in technology such as Elon Musk’s Starlink system of low-orbit satellites that might be a boon for internet connectivity in unserved and underserved areas. He also spoke about the legislature’s continuing work on spending bills to fund the federal government to prevent a shutdown.

“We’ve got from now until the end of September to deal with that. If we don’t we have to have what’s called a continuing resolution. Nobody wants that,” Johnson said, referring to perpetuating last year’s spending deal. “This year it’s different, because if we don’t have a spending bill in place by Jan. 1, under the debt limit deal (there will be) a 1-percent cut across the board in the federal government.”

He said this includes Medicare, Social Security, veterans’ benefits, the Department of Education, and other items except defense.

“We’re going to have our hands full the rest of this year, negotiating and working on a spending deal,” he said.

Ohio Sen. Frank Hoagland, R-Mingo Junction, spoke about efforts to secure funding for infrastructure and to establish a joint law enforcement training center. Ohio Rep. Ron Ferguson, R-Wintersville, spoke about his efforts on a bill for hospital price transparency.

The trustees heard from Kaleb Knowlton, representing the office of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Bradley Kennedy, representing the office of U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio. They said Brown and Vance have both been working on a railway safety act following a train derailment in East Palestine. The bill may be on the Senate floor in September.

Knowlton said Brown’s other priorities are repealing the Windfall Elimination Provision, which reduces Social Security benefits for civil servants, and the Fend off Fentanyl Act, now part of the Defense Authorization Act and aimed at combating the flow of fentanyl from Mexico and China.

Kennedy reported on Vance’s work on the Parts Act, aimed to reduce widespread thefts of catalytic converters, as well as legislation that would make it transparent where products are made, including online commerce. He said Vance and others are working toward an inspector general to monitor the use of funding and resources sent to Ukraine.

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