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Official’s visit a good sign

Belmont County welcomed an important visitor last week, recognizing that his presence was a positive sign for things to come.

New Deputy Energy Secretary Mark W. Menezes chose the proposed ethane cracker plant site at Dilles Bottom for his first official visit in that capacity. He said his department and the Trump administration are committed to the project and to the local area.

Before he toured PTT Global Chemical America’s proposed plant location, Menezes took part in a roundtable discussion and listening session with numerous federal, state and local stakeholders. During that session, Scott Owens, executive vice president of LNE group which represents PTTGCA, said if PTTGCA decides to move forward with a final investment decision, that could mean 5,000-6,000 construction jobs at the location along the Ohio River south of Shadyside for about 54 months, as well as around 600 permanent jobs once the facility is in operation.

Everyone in the room liked the sound of that.

“We are all here today for the same reason,” Menezes commented. “We want this project to continue moving forward. We want it to move forward because it will create jobs right here in Belmont County. We want it to move forward because it will strengthen American energy security. And we want it to move forward because of its broader economic development potential for the region.”

Menezes applauded PTTGCA for its commitment to proceed, despite the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has presented. Although the FID has been delayed and a previous partner, Daelim Chemical USA, has withdrawn from the deal, PTTGCA has continued site preparation and is seeking additional partners. Menezes said further evidence of that commitment can be seen in PTTGCA’s recent agreement with Energy Storage Ventures on development of the Mountaineer NGL natural gas liquids storage site.

To facilitate the development, he said Washington has implemented a tax and regulatory structure that “encourages investment and private sector confidence,” through both legislation and executive orders. In addition, public infrastructure improvements have been made, including more than $16 million in transportation grant funds for the Ohio River Rail Improvement Project that is critical to the plan, as well as $96 million in loans and grants to improve Belmont County’s water and sewer infrastructure.

All of these are very good signs, in our opinion, that the project eventually will be officially approved and launched. As with everything else in this pandemic, patience is required.

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