Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Appalachian lawmakers ask Trump to spare loan program that would help fund a gas-storage facility

A bipartisan group of lawmakers, led by West Virginia Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito, sent President Donald Trump a letter last week asking him to "spare a loan program he wants to kill and use it to help a $10 billion gas-storage project in the hard-hit Appalachian region of the eastern U.S. where coal had once dominated," Ari Natter reports for Bloomberg.

The spending bill up for debate in the House later this week proposes to kill the storage-hub project, which advocates say "would help spur new chemical, refining and other manufacturing industries -- and give out-of-work miners a new career path," Natter reports. The West Virginia senators also introduced legislation that would allow the proposed storage hub to qualify for Energy Department loan guarantees.

The states the lawmakers represent have lost thousands of coal jobs in recent years to the natural-gas boom. They say they hope new jobs in the gas industry will help unemployed coal workers. The Appalachian Storage Hub in particular could be a boon to the struggling Appalachian region. The project, which could cost as much as $10 billion, would take advantage of underground caverns in Pennsylvania, Ohio, or West Virginia to store as much as 100 million barrels of ethane, methane, and other gas products. It would require a 3,000-mile pipeline network to link it up to petrochemical plants.

Supporters say that not having storage and pipelines has kept the price of gas produced in Appalachia 30 percent lower than what it brings in Louisiana, where natural-gas prices are set. "A report by the American Chemistry Council found the project could create more than 100,000 jobs and nearly $36 billion in capital investment. The project would be similar, though smaller, to the Mont Belvieu natural gas liquids hub just outside Houston that has bolstered that area’s chemical industry," Natter reports. Even without the government storage hub project, "there are initial signs that investment is coming to the region," such as a proposed $6 billion ethane cracker plant along the Ohio River and a planned chemical complex in western Pennsylvania.

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