It has been suggested the proposed ethane cracker plant in Wood County may have to overcome obstacles erected by a state air pollution law. But if statements by the company planning the facility are candid, there should be no problem.
Though West Virginia legislators and governors have argued with federal rules aimed at reducing greenhouse gases blamed for climate change, a similar state rule was enacted in 2011. It requires owners of new plants such as the proposed ethane cracker to use "best available control technology" to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
State legislators were, in effect, blackmailed into adopting the rule. Officials at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency vowed that unless states enacted and enforced such regulations, the federal government would step in and do so. That could have eliminated much existing state authority over environmental questions, so state officials bowed to the EPA demand.
In doing so, some seem to be arguing, the state may have to require more stringent air pollution limits than it would have otherwise. That could be a problem for the Wood County cracker.
But Odebrecht, the Brazilian firm planning the cracker, already has issued statements pledging to safeguard air, water and ground quality.
In fact, the company has stated its approach "will be to use best practices and to work closely with the appropriate local, state, interstate and federal authorities to be sure that our facility is constructed and operated to satisfy all applicable regulatory and permitting requirements."
Language such as that being used by Odebrecht certainly doesn't sound like an air quality problem is anticipated. In fact, it appears the company has done its homework and is prepared to meet even the strict rules required under the new state law and by the EPA.
By mid-2014, Odebrecht is expected to submit permit applications for the Wood County cracker. After studying them, state officials will have a better idea of whether there will be any emissions concerns. For now, however, those hinting the 2011 state rule may be an obstacle appear to be trying hard to invent problems that do not yet exist.