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Editorial: Capitalize On Cracker Delay

From The Intelligencer of Wheeling:

All good things come to those who wait, it has been said. Well, if that bears out for the Ohio Valley, we are really going to be pleased with the proposed ethane cracker plant in Belmont County.

If it is built.

PTT Global Chemical America proposed the plant in 2015. If the firm proceeds, the short-term outlook is for hundreds of new jobs. In the long-term, the tally could be in the thousands. It is no exaggeration to see the cracker as a major shot in the arm for our economy.

For some time, PTT officials had said they planned to announce by the end of March whether they would proceed with the plant. But this week came a shocker: It may be the end of the year before a decision is announced.

That hit some local residents hard. Some East Ohio and Northern Panhandle residents have been counting on the cracker. News of the delay made some wonder whether PTT is reconsidering its initial plan.

People in the know, including some public officials with “inside” information, do not seem to be worried, however.

It appears the delay is to allow PTT officials more time to work with two potential contractors for the plant. Their very involvement at this stage — combined, of course, with PTT’s commitment in 2015 to spend $100 million on engineering and design plans — is reassuring.

It may be best to view this week’s announcement in two ways:

First, it gives local and state officials more time to firm up and improve plans for government to assist PTT in building the cracker.

Some government-based issues, including environmental permits, already have been expedited. Doing the same regarding other matters, such as infrastructure needs, can only encourage PTT to proceed.

Second, the delay provides more time for local officials on both sides of the Ohio River to plan for the impact the cracker will have on our area. For one thing, finding housing for construction workers, then for permanent employees at the plant, will be a challenge.

So, let us look for the silver lining in this week’s announcement — and capitalize on the additional time it appears we will have to prepare for the plant.

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