Thu., 12:25pm: EPA director tours MarkWest facility

CADIZ – Ohio EPA Director Scott Nally met with Harrison County officials at the Cadiz Municipal Building Tuesday before taking a tour of MarkWest Energy Partners’ new Hopedale Fractionation Facility and Railyard.

Rich Milleson, economic coordinator for the village, hosted the meeting and gave a brief presentation of all of the economic development and expansion the shale boom has brought to the village.

Nally then listened to a presentation of the village’s sewer trunk line and treatment plant construction projects given by Chad R. Lampe, project manager for Kokosing.

Mayor Ken Zitko joined Lampe in giving credit to Water Superintendent Tom Carter who stated that 29 years ago his supervisor had told him that the trunk lines would be replaced.

“It is great to see the project is finally going to be completed and I have to say that without the current administration in the village, and countywide, none of this would have happened.”

The mayor and Carter credited Harrison County Commissioner Don Bethel and county Engineer Rob Sterling for their efforts.

“I am very pleased with the presentation, with where you are going and very pleased that the village is ahead of schedule on the project,” said Nally. “I am looking forward to seeing after the studies where you are at on the hydrology because that will make a big difference especially on growth and where you are looking at growth.”

“You guys are under the gun here and I get that. Looking at growth is the chicken-and-egg deal,” Nally explained.

“My challenge is to kind of walk that line and be protective of the environment yet not necessarily be in the way of growth.

“But you can’t do one without the other sometimes and I think we worked well together on that,” Nally added. “There were bumps in the road but, it is easier to go down that road shaking hands.”

Nally also toured MarkWest’s Hopedale fractionation facility. The fractionation facility will separate the natural gas into propane, butane, natural gas and various other products, which are all then loaded into tanker trucks or railcars for distribution to downstream facilities and customers.

“Often times we lose sight that we have been doing oil and gas in the state for along time,” Nally spoke on the safety issues of the deep gas industry boom. “We are talking about fracking now as if it is the big “f” word, but we have been fracking in the state since 1948.

“There were more than 88,000 frack jobs in the state prior to the new play, What is new about this is it is no longer point and shoot, but it’s point and horizontal,” Nally explained. “That is really the new piece of it.”

Nally added that off-shore drilling began in Ohio.

“We had the first off shore drilling rig in the world, it happened to be in Grand Lake St. Mary’s in about 5 foot of water, but it was off shore,” Nally added that the technology did not develop in the Gulf of Mexico. “If you look at a lot of the vertical rigs, the industry has been here a long time.”

Nally said that with horizontal drilling, you can limit the number of holes you have to punch into the ground. he added the the EPA and the Department of Natural Resources work together to ensure the casings are secure.

“We encourage recycling, but we are fortunate in Ohio because of the geology we can have Class II injection wells. By injecting the brine deep underground, Class II wells prevent surface contamination of soil and water.

“I am not as concerned as people think I should be because we have doing this for 140 years,” Nally added.

He said he has colleagues and friends in other states that he is in constant contact with sharing information which gives us an advantage.

“I spend a lot of time making sure we are aware of what is next, if there is a blind spot, did we miss something,” Nally said. “I think we have pretty much stayed on top of it.”

Nally pointed to concerns in Pennsylvania.

“Pennsylvania has been very open with us sharing their problems and then we try and make sure it does not happen here,” Nally added. “But I don’t like moving goal posts either, so we are trying to go at this relatively systematically and the oil and gas folks have been receptive on it.”

Nally toured the site’s adjacent railyard loading facility, which will provide service to the fractionation facility. Prior to submitting a water quality certification application, MarkWest engaged the Ohio EPA to make sure the proposed railyard facility would comply with all environmental regulations. The collaboration helped Ohio EPA understand the company’s business needs and issue a final environmentally protective certification within 50 days.

Nally stated that the companies have a vested interest in the state and often times their employees end up living in the area where they drill,

“That is going to be your population growth at the end of the day. So why are they going to mess up an area where they will are going to have a footprint for 80 to 100 years?”