Pipeline possibility should bring towns together.
On March 13, there was a five-hour period during which $1.4 billion in economic development was announced for Eastern Ohio. This included a $500 million natural gas processing hub in Harrison County and a $900 million cryogenic natural gas processing facility in Columbiana County.
If the key economic development players and government leaders play their cards right, Trumbull County could one day soon have its own five hours of economic development glory.
Trumbull and then Ashtabula County are about to enter a phase of robust oil and natural gas extraction through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the Utica Shale. This already has resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars for Trumbull's largest landowners who leased their mineral rights and many major job announcements for Warren, Girard and Youngstown.
We would be remiss if we didn't point out that if the first couple drilling operations in Trumbull come up dry, all this excitement would turn into a bust. But that seems highly unlikely.
Indications are that we're sitting on something more like a mother lode. That means it's time to think about the best ways to bring this precious product to market.
Currently, that method is trucks. Truckload after truckload after truckload of oil and wet gas go from Trumbull and Ashtabula counties to processing plants throughout the region.
While that works, the fuel costs and efficiency of trucks is not optimum for oil and gas companies and certainly not ideal for the region's infrastructure. These are just a couple reasons why constructing a pipeline infrastructure in Trumbull County sounds so attractive.
Other reasons are that, unlike roads, taxpayers would have little to no cost in constructing and maintaining pipelines, and the rights of way for pipelines already exist, mostly along highways and railways. But the biggest reason to support the pipeline idea is that it could lead to Trumbull County landing a processing plant similar to Columbiana and Harrison, or even a petrochemical refinery (called a cracker plant) similar to the multi-billion-dollar one that Shell Oil Co. has slated for Monaca, Pa.
Aither Chemicals LLC of South Charleston, W.Va., plans to build multiple cracker plants and is looking closely at Ohio. MarkWest Energy Partners said it plans to construct a massive ''fractionation'' plant in eastern Ohio. Other companies are looking here, as well.
The key local players - the Regional Chamber, the Western Reserve Port Authority, the Mahoning Valley Economic Development Corp. and the Trumbull County Planning Commission among them - are aware. It's important for them to work together and for government leaders to do the same. The disaster would be local communities competing with each other, like Girard and Youngstown did over the V&M Star project.
Following the logic stated by Aither President Len Dolhert, potential local sites include McDonald, Warren, Lordstown and Braceville. Dolhert told the Pittsburgh Post Gazette that access to boat, rail, road and acreage is necessary and that "with brownfields, there's a history of manufacturing and people are comfortable with it.''
McDonald, for example, has a river, nearby highway access, brownfield acreage, a town built on industry and even two Class I railroads - everything that Dolhert described plus a potential gas customer in V&M virtually next door.
Local officials should throw their support behind a united effort to build natural gas pipelines and attract processing plants. If Trumbull does emerge as a coveted location, these officials must refrain from parochialism. As long as the factories locate in Trumbull County, it doesn't matter which town.