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Pipeline concerns aired at meeting

RIO GRANDE – Marathon Ashland Petroleum’s proposed pipeline that would run from Kenova, W.

Wednesday, November 28, 2001

RIO GRANDE – Marathon Ashland Petroleum’s proposed pipeline that would run from Kenova, W.Va. to Columbus drew fire at last night’s public meeting held at the University of Rio Grande.

As proposed, the 14-inch pipeline will run for 149 miles, going from Marathon Ashland’s refinery in Kenova, W.Va. through Lawrence, Gallia, Jackson, Vinton, Hocking, Fairfield, Pickaway and Franklin counties in order to deliver petroleum products to Columbus, one of the state’s fastest growing regions.

The company claims that Columbus is prone to supply disruption and price spikes because the city is at the end of the line on three of the existing major pipelines that service the city. With the pipeline running from the refinery straight to the city, the chances of supply disruption would be lower.

The meeting was held by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and was offered so members of the public could go on record and express their feelings about the pipeline. The proposed pipeline would cross 363 streams and 55 wetlands.

The pipeline has come under scrutiny from environmental groups that claim the petroleum company did not accurately identify the number of streams and wetlands that would be affected by the pipeline’s construction. One group, S.T.O.P., short for "Stop the Ohio Pipeline" claims that the oil company failed to identify 155 stream crossings in its permit application. Columbus attorney Richard Sahli, S.T.O.P. spokesperson and coordinator, said the company failed to identify some streams which are "significantly sized with large watersheds" and are also used in agricultural operations.

Most groups would like the government agencies to require the company to file an Environmental Impact Statement instead of the more lenient Environmental Assessment that it has already filed.

The next public hearing will be held tomorrow at Lancaster High School at 6:30 p.m.

Marathon Ashland has been working on the project more than three years. It withdrew its first federal application in February 2000 after state and federal environmental protection agencies, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service raised concerns.

In July 2000, landowners won a ruling in Pickaway County Common Pleas Court blocking the project. At that time, Marathon Ashland had acquired 88 percent of the right of way it needed for the project, a spokesman said.

By this June, the company had secured 95 percent of the right of way necessary, but the Corps of Engineers’ Huntington District blocked the project, saying a standard permit was not appropriate. It said Marathon Ashland must file an individual permit and hold public hearings.

More on the Marathon Ashland pipeline will appear in Friday’s edition.