W.Va. lawmakers, Odebrecht reps to meet

CHARLESTON – Officials with the company planning a new petrochemical complex – the ethane cracker plant – for Wood County are in Charleston this week, meeting with lawmakers and others discussing topics.

West Virginia Secretary of Commerce Keith Burdette said officials with Odebrecht had set up meetings Tuesday to meet with members of the Legislature and others dealing with the state’s workforce preparedness in skills and training in the construction trade fields.

However, Burdette said these meetings were not aimed at the possible needs of the petrochemical complex being proposed for Wood County.

“This is them coming here to get to know us,” Burdette said.

Since the announcement was made in November that the Brazil-based Odebrecht was planning to develop an ethane cracker, three polyethylene plants and associated infrastructure for water treatment and energy co-generation in Wood County, many people have been curious about the project and wanting details.

“There have been two big topics of discussion in Charleston this week,” Burdette said. “One was the water situation (where Charleston was without usable tap water after a chemical leak entered the Elk River) and the other was the proposed cracker plant in Wood County.”

Officials with Odebrecht and Burdette are scheduled to meet with Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin today.

“It is all apart of moving the project along,” Burdette said. “Over the next couple of days, they will have a wide variety of meetings.”

The proposed complex is called ASCENT, which stands for “Appalachian Shale Cracker Enterprise.” If the plant is built, it would be operated by Braskem America.

Appalachian Shale Cracker Enterprise LLC purchased the SABIC Innovative Plastics plant property at 9226 DuPont Road, Washington, W.Va., for $10,910,890. The sale was completed Dec. 31.

Officials from Odebrecht included David Peebles, a business development manager, who has been regularly seen in the Parkersburg area and “others who were here when the announcement was made in November,” Burdette said.

Cam Huffman, executive director of the Wood County Development Authority, said the meetings this week were for officials with Odebrecht to “become more visible” and make new introductions as the project moves along and more people become involved in the work.

They have discussed with state lawmakers and officials what has been discussed locally over the last few months, answering questions on a more statewide level, he said.

“We have been working on this project for three years,” Huffman said. “We are starting to bring in more people into the fold.”

Officials have said the next step is getting the permits in place, a process that could take a couple of years.

As the work grows, so do the number of people working on the project, Burdette said.