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W.Va. DEP chief picked to lead new petrochemical manufacturing task force

By Kate Mishkin, Charleston Gazette-Mail

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice is putting the head of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection in charge of a new task force on manufacturing and petrochemicals.

Gov. Jim Justice announced the creation of a special task force to work toward bringing downstream manufacturing opportunities to West Virginia ahead of an anticipated expansion of the petrochemical industry during the state Chamber of Commerce Business Summit Wednesday at The Greenbrier resort, in White Sulphur Springs.

Justice announced the new task force, and Secretary Austin Caperton’s appointment, Wednesday morning at the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce’s annual business summit at The Greenbrier, the governor’s luxury resort.

“I think big,” he later said of his plan for downstream manufacturing.

The so-called Governor’s Downstream Jobs Task Force will spearhead manufacturing in the state “ahead of an anticipated expansion of the petrochemical industry in Appalachia,” Justice’s office later said in a news release.

Plans for an Appalachian Storage Hub — and the infrastructure that would surround it — are still opaque. According to a feasibility study from the U.S. Department of Energy, the storage hub in the upper Ohio Valley would include gathering lines, processing plants, fractionation facilities, liquid storage facilities and ethane crackers — all to keep up with the rapid extraction of natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica shale formations.

Proponents see a petrochemical complex as a vehicle for job growth and energy independence; skeptics are concerned about the potential affects on health and the environment. Top state officials, meanwhile, are pushing for a federal loan guarantee to build the giant chemical storage plant that could cost as much as $10 billion. ….

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