A Findlay, Ohio-based oil company says it needs a new petroleum pipeline to help get gasoline and jet fuel products to market in the Great Lakes states. But Marathon-Ashland’s proposal has sparked opposition from environmentalists and some small business owners in Southeast Ohio who fear possible contamination of waterways and disruption of some pristine areas. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Tom Borgerding has the story:
A Findlay, Ohio based Oil Company says it needs a new petroleum pipeline to help get gasoline and jet fuel products to market in the Great Lakes states. But, Marathon-Ashland’s proposal has sparked opposition from environmentalists and some small business owners in Southeast Ohio who fear possible contamination of waterways and disruption of some pristine areas. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Tom Borgerding reports.
The proposed 149-mile long pipeline will cross the Ohio River from Kenova, West Virginia and snake through parts of the Wayne National Forest and scenic Hocking Hills in Southeastern Ohio and South Central Ohio. Company spokesman Tim Aydt says the project will help stabilize gasoline prices in a region stretching from eastern Illinois to western New York.
“The existing pipeline infrastructure that serves us today is decades old and it was designed when there was only one grade of gasoline and one grade of diesel fuel. And it was designed to serve a population about half the size it is today. Over time, with the growth we’ve had in the Midwest we’ve outgrown that pipeline capacity and as a result we’ve witnessed the last two summers where we’ve had constrained supply that’s resulted in price spikes.”
The pipeline might help stabilize gasoline prices in the region by adding a second source of supply for refined petroleum products. Currently, The Great Lakes region is dependent solely on pipelines running out of refineries in the Gulf Coast states such as Louisiana and Texas. But, Marathon-Ashland’s proposal also presents a potential environmental risk. The pipeline will cross 363 streams, 55 wetlands, and parts of three watersheds. For some, the prospect of a pipeline carrying gasoline and jet fuel through environmentally sensitive areas has sparked fears. Jane Ann Ellis is a founder and trustee of Crane Hollow…. a privately owned, dedicated state nature preserve in the path of the pipeline.
“If this pipeline would be built and if there was any kind of leak this would decimate the clean water that we have. It is easier to keep your drinking water clean than it is to clean it up afterwards. And it’s cheaper in the long run for the general public.”
Michael Daniels also opposes Marathon-Ashland’s project. He owns a country inn that attracts tourists from Ohio and surrounding states. He says many of his customers come to the region to hear chirping birds, babbling brooks, and to see the fall foliage. Daniels says both construction and operation of the pipeline will have a negative effect on his business.
“Certainly! Who would want to come as a tourist and be exposed to that kind of noise and intrusion into their experience? So, there’s no question that it will impact my business.”
But company spokesman Tim Aydt says the pipeline route through parts of a national forest and other environmentally sensitive areas is the best possible route.
“We wanted to avoid population centers. We wanted to avoid residential or commercial developments and we wanted to avoid flood plains where we could. So, when all of that was put into the mix we came up with the best route overall. Obviously it’s not the cheapest route because it’s not a straight line between two points. But, about 80 percent of the route follows existing utility corridors or those areas that are less prone to development.”
Marathon-Ashland says without the pipeline the Great Lakes could soon face shortages of gasoline, lines at the pump and greater fluctuations in gas prices. The tension between the company and pipeline opponents turns on the question of whether Marathon-Ashland will be required to submit an “environmental impact statement.” The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expected to make that decision early this year following a recommendation from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. Corps spokesman Steve Wright says there’s no question such a requirement will delay the project.
“That will take longer. You know they take varying lengths of time but certainly they can’t be done very quickly.”
Marathon-Ashland contends an environmental impact statement (EIS) is unnecessary. But, opponents of the plan say the EIS is critical since the pipeline puts so many streams and wetlands at risk for potential pollution.
For the Great Lakes radio Consortium I’m Tom Borgerding