American Chemistry Council

Energy Department Hires a Top Cheerleader for Petrochemical Hub Before Issuing Report Favoring It

Read time: 9 mins
Brian Anderson

Near the end of 2018, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) hired the leading promoter within academia of a massive and multi-faceted petrochemical complex proposed for West Virginia. A month later, the agency issued a report favoring the construction of such a complex.

On November 9, the Energy Department’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) named as its new director former West Virginia University Professor Brian Anderson.

NETL, which spearheads federal energy-related research and development (R&D) efforts, is currently deciding whether to grant $1.9 billion in R&D money toward building out the proposed petrochemical complex, known as the Appalachian Storage Hub. 

Why Plans to Turn America’s Rust Belt into a New Plastics Belt Are Bad News for the Climate

Read time: 12 mins
Pipes from the former Bethlehem Steel Plant in Pennsylvania

The petrochemical industry anticipates spending a total of over $200 billion on factories, pipelines, and other infrastructure in the U.S. that will rely on shale gas, the American Chemistry Council announced in September. Construction is already underway at many sites.

This building spree would dramatically expand the Gulf Coast’s petrochemical corridor (known locally as “Cancer Alley”) — and establish a new plastics and petrochemical belt across states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.

Led by Sempra Energy, 'Global Natural Gas Coalition' Launched with Trump Admin and Labor Union in Fold

Read time: 8 mins
Arctic Lady LNG tanker

San Diego-based Sempra Energy has spearheaded the launch of a group called the Global Natural Gas Coalition to promote exports of gas obtained via fracking (hydraulic fracturing) to the global market. Sempra is a natural gas utility giant and liquefied natural gas (LNG) export and import company.

Announced at a June 25 gathering at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., the Global Natural Gas Coalition features other participants such as the American Petroleum Institute (API)LNG Allies, the American Gas Association, American Chemistry Council, and others, according to its event page on the website Eventbrite. The RSVP information for the Press Club event features the contact information for Paty Mitchell, a spokeswoman for Sempra, and the company's representatives consisted of eight out of the 78 attendees of that event, according to the Eventbrite page.  

Also attending the event were officials from several agencies in the Trump administration. They included Mark Menezes, Elise Atkins, Christine Harbin, Jessica Szymanski, and Sara Kinney of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE); Deaver Alexander, William Thompson, and Stephen Morel of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (a federal agency focused on helping “American businesses invest in emerging markets”); Scott Condren of the U.S. Export-Import Bank; and John McCarrick of the U.S. Department of State.

West Virginia Candidate Ousted From Hearing for Reading Industry Donors. But Bill She Opposed Just Passed in House.

Read time: 4 mins
Lissa Lucas being removed from the West Virginia Senate hearing on HB 4268

On Friday, February 9, Lissa Lucas — a Democratic Party candidate for West Virginia's House of Delegates — was forcibly removed from a Senate hearing for calling out how many thousands of dollars legislators backing a pro-oil and gas industry bill have received from that very industry.

The video of Lucas's public comment and removal has gone viral and served as a launching pad for her campaign, which has raised more than $46,000 since the incident. Previously, she had raised just over $4,000. Coincidentally, Lucas supports a publicly funded campaign finance system. 

The bill (HB 4268) she opposed, however, has passed in the West Virginia House of Delegates.

That law, “forced pooling” legislation which makes it easier for the oil and gas industry to obtain mineral rights from private landowners as a precursor to drilling, has the support of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association. It enables oil and gas companies to perform more hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) on private land in the state by mandating that, rather than securing land lease contracts from all landowners, companies only need 75 percent of those living in an area to sign leases and are granted the remaining 25 percent by default.

China Is Financing a Petrochemical Hub in Appalachia. Meet its Powerful Backers.

Read time: 16 mins
U.S. President Trump, Chinese President Xi Jinping, and West Virginia Commerce Sec. Thrasher join in the Great Hall in Beijing for MOU signing for the Appalachian Development Hub  in November 2017

Over the past year, oil and gas industry plans to build a petrochemical refining and storage hub along the Ohio River have steadily gained traction. Proponents hope this potential hub, which would straddle Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky, could someday rival the industrial corridor found along the Gulf Coast in Texas and Louisiana.

Those plans center around creating what is known as the Appalachian Storage Hub, which received a major boost on November 9 during a trade mission to China attended by President Donald Trump and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. At that trade mission, also attended by Chinese President Xi Jinping, the China Energy Investment Corp. announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to invest $83.7 billion into the planned storage hub over 20 years. For comparison, West Virginia's gross domestic product (GDP) in 2016 was $72.9 billion.

Though called the Appalachian Storage Hub as a broad-sweeping term, in practice the hub could encompass natural gas liquids storage, a market trading index center, a key pipeline feeding epicenter, and a petrochemical refinery row. Its prospective development has been spurred by the current construction of a $6 billion petrochemical refining facility in Pennsylvania owned by Shell Oil.

Washington Throws Chemical Safety Standards Out the Window, Are Fracking Chemicals Next?

Read time: 3 mins

As our elected officials in Washington attempt to sell us on the idea that we need to go to war against anyone who uses chemical weapons, they are working to remove safety standards that protect citizens from corporate America’s ongoing chemical assault.

In recent weeks, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has rolled back safety regulations for the chemical industry, while the U.S. House of Representatives has prepared to take aim at the government’s ability to monitor chemicals and other safety hazards posed by fracking.

Bowing to pressure by the chemical industry, the EPA has decided to withdraw a proposal that would have added numerous new substances to their database of hazardous chemicals, which is used to issue public health assessments and warnings.  One of the substances is Bisphenol A, a chemical used in the manufacture of certain plastics that has been linked to an increased risk of cancer and reproductive impacts.

The EPA had previously expressed a great deal of concern over the lack of safety standards in place for toxic chemicals that studies had shown were dangerous to the public, but the pressure coming from the chemical industry was far too great for them to overcome.

The American Chemistry Council, a lobbying group that operates as the political arm of chemical manufacturers, believes that the EPA made a “wise decision” to not go forward with their new proposals.  The group has spent more than $4 million this year alone lobbying the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House, and the EPA.

Rather than compiling their lists now, as their proposed rule allowed, the EPA decided to wait until all chemicals are thoroughly and repeatedly analyzed, a process expected to finish in 2017, unless delayed. Then they will begin the process of drafting new proposals. 

This means that the American public will suffer another four years of inaction and exposure to chemicals that the agency already knows are toxic.

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