Tuesday, June 04, 2002

EPA won't intervene in oil pipeline decision

By John McCarthy
The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — A group opposed to a 149-mile petroleum pipeline that would cross southeast Ohio said Monday it wants Gov. Bob Taft to ask the federal government to order an environmental study of the project.

        The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, however, won't intervene in the case, a spokesman said.

        The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is deciding whether to issue Marathon Ashland Petroleum the permit to run a pipelinefrom Kenova, W.Va., under the Ohio River and through southeast Ohio to a tank yard on Columbus' west side.

        Its path would cut through some of Ohio's most scenic countryside, crossing 363 streams and 55 wetlands areas and winding around the Wayne National Forest and through the Hocking Hills. The 14-inch pipeline would be buried four feet underground and could carry 80,000 gallons of gasoline, diesel fuel, kerosene or jet fuel a day.

        Stop the Ohio Pipeline, a group of activists who oppose the project, said a rupture or explosion would be a disaster for southeast Ohio's environment.

        At a Statehouse news conference, the group introduced Frank King, whose 10-year-old Wade was one of three people killed in a pipeline explosion on June 10, 1999, in Bellingham, Wash.

        Wade and another boy jumped into a creek in an attempt to save themselves, but the creek was filling with gasoline and caught fire, burning the boys over 90 percent of their bodies.

        The boys ran home and Wade's “shirt had burned off. His hair had burned off. He said, "Mom, don't look at me. Don't look at me,”' Mr. King said.

        Agencies monitoring the industry aren't effective, Mr. King said, so he travels the country telling his story to stir public passion.

        “What I found out about this industry ought to make the hairs on your neck stand up,” King said.

        King's family and the other boy's family will share a $75 million settlement announced in April by the pipeline company.

        King and environmental lawyer Rich Sahli of Columbus urged Taft to ask the Corps of Engineers to order a study on the pipeline's impact. Calls to Taft's office were referred to the Ohio EPA.

        However, EPA spokesman Jim Leach said that since the agency has no jurisdiction over issuing the permit, it will not ask the corps to order an environmental-impact study.

        “I don't know how the Army Corps of Engineers would be influenced by that,” Leach said. “The final call is from the Army Corps.”

        Marathon Ashland doesn't believe such a study is necessary, company spokeswoman Chris Fox said. The land through which the pipeline would travel has proven safe since other pipes and utility lines were built through it, she said.

        “We believe firmly that with the four years of research and surveys, we have, in effect, done an environmental-impact study,” Fox said. “This is a low-impact project.”

        The corps is awaiting a water quality certification from the Ohio EPA and an evaluation from the federal Office of Pipeline Safety before it decides whether to grant Marathon Ashland's permit, for which it applied Sept. 17.

        “I don't mean to cast this in a positive or negative light,” corps spokesman Steve Wright said.


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