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Marathon to develop plan for pipeline

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Ohio River Pipeline LLC is developing a plan to address the recent suspension of its pipeline construction permit.

According to a release from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Huntington district, after a day-long meeting between representatives of ORPL, a subsidiary of Marathon-Ashland Petroleum, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, ORPL is developing a plan consisting of corrective measures to address Thursday's suspension of its permit, which halted the pipeline's construction.

The Corps halted construction on the pipeline after inspections early last week revealed violations at a section running through Richland State Forest in northern Jackson County. Inspectors said workers dumped fill into waterways, failed to control erosion and sediment and worked outside the approved right-of-way. Monday's inspection was the fourth time the corps had noted problems with the project. The company was notified in November 2002 and May and June of this year.

The company will provide the corrective measures plan this weekend that will address the issues of environmental non-compliance that caused the suspension. If the plan is approved by the Corps, work crews may be back on the job to begin those measures as soon as Monday, the Corps release stated. ORPL will also submit a long-range plan to address construction on the remainder of the pipeline.

Marathon Ashland spokesman Chuck Rice told the Associated Press that the company received the suspension order Wednesday and construction was only halted Thursday.

"Quite frankly, we thought we were meeting the requirements and following the orders we were supposed to be following. Apparently not," Rice said.

Rice also said this spring's wet weather has made it difficult to implement erosion control plans.

When completed, the pipeline will transport gasoline, diesel fuel and jet fuel manufactured at Marathon-Ashland's refinery in Catlettsburg, Ky., from a large tank farm in Kenova, W.Va., to Columbus. The pipeline crosses the Ohio River and passes through Lawrence, Gallia, Jackson, Vinton, Hocking, Fairfield, Pickaway and Franklin counties in Ohio. Approximately 40 miles remains incomplete on the project, and Rice said it should be finished by September.

Construction of the pipeline began in August 2002 after approximately two years of negotiations with local governments and private citizens. However, construction commencing did not end the debate regarding the pipeline's safety and resulted in lawsuits.

The most vocal opponent of the pipeline, environmental group Stop the Ohio Pipeline (STOP), filed three lawsuits in August 2002 against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and ORPL, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. However, these suits were dropped because the group believed the pipeline would be completed before it would receive its day in court.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.