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Pipeline project ready to move

Construction of the the pipeline proposed by Marathon Ashland Petroleum Company could kickoff within one month.

Monday, February 18, 2002

Construction of the the pipeline proposed by Marathon Ashland Petroleum Company could kickoff within one month.

The company said in a press release that all of the easements needed to begin construction have been granted and the $50 million pipeline that will begin in Kenova, W.Va. and terminate in Columbus could be completed as early as the end of this year.

The pipeline will cross eight southeast Ohio counties, including the edge of Wayne National Forest in Lawrence County. From Lawrence County, the pipeline will run through Gallia, Jackson, Vinton, Hocking, Fairfield, Pickaway and Franklin counties. The pipeline will cross the Ohio River, 363 streams, 55 wetlands and several nature preserves.

The company has worked on the pipeline proposal for nearly four years. The pipeline, 14 inches in diameter, would be buried about 4 feet underground and have a daily carrying capacity of 80,000 barrels of diesel fuel, gasoline, jet fuel or kerosene.

The project has not been without opponents, however.

Those opposing the pipeline allege the route was chosen because the Appalachian counties tend to be politically weaker and less likely to fight than more prosperous counties.

During public comment meetings conducted by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, opponents aired their concern over the pipeline’s potential environmental impact.

Environmental groups also 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, STOP, short for "Stop the Ohio Pipeline," claimed that the oil company failed to identify 155 stream crossings in its permit application. Columbus attorney Richard Sahli, STOP 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 of the environmental groups would like the government agencies to require the company to file an Environmental Impact Statement instead of the more lenient Environmental Assessment which the company has already filed.

The corps could be the last line of defense for the pipeline opponents. The federal agency has yet to sign off on a permit to dig in environmentally sensitive areas, and opponents are hoping to derail the project by persuading the corps to conduct a detailed study of the route.