The Appalachian Storage Hub “Bait and Switch” by Alice Melendez

Bait and Switch- The Usual

We have all become familiar with one kind of fossil fuel corporate shell game: the one where lower performing ‘assets’ (land, minerals, and ‘rights’) are sold off to small companies with weak legal connections to key human players and limited capital so that when clean-up and worker pay/healthcare obligations come due after the mining party is over, the small companies can declare bankruptcy and leave the taxpayer and underfunded state agencies on the hook for the hazardous waste and sick people < >. The Appalachian Storage Hub conference held this week in Canonsburg, PA illustrates a different bait and switch.

Bait and Switch- The Shine-stealers

When I first looked at the conference program, Perry Babb, caught my attention, naming his talk “A Low-Carbon Future for Natural Gas in the Appalachian Basin ” while touting his skills at ‘rescuing stranded natural gas assets’ for people on the hook financially. On the surface, it looks like the story of the broader greenwashing of natural gas as a ‘bridge fuel’ tool for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, obscuring the millions of cubic feet of ‘fugitive’ methane emissions at the wellheads, redirecting investment from renewables and proving the climate-friendly storyline to be fraud.

But his talk is part of another bait and switch. He speaks in Canonsburg to provide cover for other sleights of hand in shifting power-stories about the future of the Appalachian Basin petrochemical development. Why is one of the keynote speakers at the ‘storage hub’ conference behind a vertically integrated wellhead-to-product project that doesn’t need any shared storage? His project vision has literally nothing to do with the fantasy Appalachian Storage Hub Mont Belveiu-like scenario < >, other than he also-uses natural gas. So, why the hell is he a main speaker? Partly because the ASH project has so few actual supporters to present. Take a look at their tired, blast from the dinosaur past website, like Becky Christmas of Reuter’s Upstream and their team of shiny tech-wizards wouldn’t answer the calls to shine up and sell the conference. They are stuck with Topline Analytics who hasn’t updated their website since 2014 (the financial story from today just doesn’t sell as well < >) and even they don’t mention going to the conference this year in ‘upcoming events’.

Babb’s team has designed an innovative, potentially sane medium-term manufacturing/ climate-transition business that could keep fossil fuel wealth multipliers in the local economy< >. It has replicable elements while following the thread of experience which teaches us that local contexts are unique and that when investment and design plans are copy-pasted across the world we end up with the colonial hell that is currently crashing our health, economy and critical ecological infrastructure. Babb offers the Appalachian Storage Hub project-from-hell a chance to rub off some of his ‘shine’. They use him to create a mirage. The wizards behind the curtain pretend their plan has something to do with carbon-capture scaled on-site to match the project. They pretend their plan is driven by needed products and not by what mining outputs they need to sell. They pretend their plan gives two shits about the massive bleeds of the earth’s blood and guts and vapors out into the atmosphere, about the climactic catastrophe they are spelling into existence with their arcane formulations of chemistry and debt. He builds churches but here at Canonsburg he’s selling his soul < > for new investors. At the scale of major manufacturing, working in the existing world system, even for someone who recognizes the need to transition, the money-lenders circle around the petrochemical industry.

Bait and Switch- “Game-changer?” Or “Just a warehouse”

Another lead speaker, Mike Tritt, says in his press release on the conference website that ASH won’t be built as it was proposed < >. Damn guys. But, “Lane Power’s leader is convinced rather than one large storage facility, a number of smaller storage projects will be built in the Appalachian Basin, offering capacities between 2 million barrels and five million barrels, costing between $200 and $300 million.” He would know, his team actually builds the underground caverns to store the stuff. David Hooker of Mountaineer NGL storage called Hedrick’s competing Appalachian Storage Hub project ‘pie in the sky,’ saying it’s too large for the needs of the region. Hooker also said he has no plans to turn his project into anything like the Mont Belvieu complex, with its long history of mishaps and environmental violations. “We just want to be a warehouse,” he told James Bruggers of Inside Climate News< >. Hooker is currently reapplying for permits to Ohio Department of “Environmental Protection” after Ohio DEP failed to follow their legal public comment process for a project-type which has never been built in our region and which fails catastrophically when and whereever it does fail < >.

According to the Department of Energy report “All Benefits, No Costs!,” Appalachia can separate 1.1 million BPD into discreet natural gas liquid components, so the two million barrel storage cavern handles a couple days worth of production in a floating capacity for downstream users, while most will still be going away in pipelines, particularly the ATEX capacity expansion. The storage hub Tritt and Hooker refer to is truly just a dirty, dangerous warehouse for a product which, while initially generating gasps of amazement < >, is now generally recognized as a scourge covering over the planet in garbage and poison < >.  Besides greenwashing, and shine-stealing, the bad wizards behind the Appalachian Storage Hub (and their stooges at county economic development offices) are jobswashing, fooling the people who will suffer the impacts of the petrochemical build-out on the Ohio River into thinking that, at least, it will lead to long-term money in the pockets of regular working people < >.

When the American Chemical Council makes up the widely-repeated story about a hundred thousand jobs coming to the region, the layers of bullshit are literally so many and so deep that the muck would suck off your shoes and leave you cussing and coming back with a shovel to extract your footwear. Really. The assumptions built into their models have proven to be wrong in the past. They get paid to make planned facilities look better-than-reality, to secure government funds and investors, to convince people-in-the-way who might complain at public hearings and fight permits that they will benefit and never feel costs. Please read Sean O’Leary’s useful true accounting, “Lies, Damn Lies, and Economic Impact Studies” < > about this project’s data sources and methodologies.

Even in the ACC study used to transmit politically-useful fraudulent claims about the economic impacts of the proposed development, they reveal the true driver of the project. As much as they wish to dress the industry up in the appearance of ‘the public good,’ their calculations are all about using all the mined resource they can get their hands on, as quick as possible.  And this is opposite the public interest. 

From their report (my comments in italics):

The Appalachian region is an ideal location for the emergence of a second major petrochemical manufacturing hub in the United States, offering benefits such as:

  • Proximity to abundant NGL resources from the Marcellus/Utica and Rogersville shale formations [the mine is the driver]
  • Proximity to manufacturing markets in the Midwest and along much of the East Coast [the distance to Midwest and East Coast is relative to how far the NGLs are processed. If they are still mixed, liquid hazardous material, the cost of using existing pipelines versus the price of the unrefined material is the issue; if they are moving nurdles and processed chemicals valuable enough to warrant paying to move by tanker, they can move by road/rail/barge… the critical issue is to limit the distance the unrefined chemical has to move]
  • -Opportunity to strengthen the U.S. economy by providing employment and supply diversity [one could provide employment almost any other way, what if our government was giving $500,000 to 80,000 smallish businesses instead of sending Chuck Zelek to the ASH Conference with a briefcase full of $40 billion in easy debt for big dogs only?; the key here is creating multiple sites to keep the processing of the raw mine material moving at the pace of the wellheads]
  • -Opportunity to enable high-value ethane use to create U.S.-made products, while avoiding ethane rejection [burning ethane or selling it below cost of transport is the great driver, here mentioned explicitly]

More or less, the idea that we need the product is not mentioned as a potential benefit of a potential hub located here. Tritt does mention potential for clients for hydrogen storage. Here is a zero carbon emissions fuel, which requires massive amounts of mostly natural gas (or maybe even Clean Coal TM?!) -fueled electricity to separate the hydrogen and store it for fuel, making it a perfect greenwashing candidate for public consumption while also helping with the apparently critical challenge of creating markets for that financially-stranded natural gas.

Tritt of Lane Power will headline the ASH conference because any cavern storage building project is a huge capital expense and he makes his money from the highly specialized work of building them. I’d say not many folks could secure good enough liability insurance or otherwise manage cost of risk to handle the fall-out when a cavern leaks or blows at the wellhead and creates a toxic cloud and/or massive explosion <>. But Tritt of Lane Power knows and makes known that the real prospect for “development” is nothing like the showy studies presented to the public. He will get his team whatever money he can from the pent up political energy that created all those great promotional materials that cover the asses of the “public servants” who need to subsidize the projects. And he will tell the conference goers that the project in the promo and the reality are completely different because he knows the public doesn’t read much. Whoever you are, reading this blog, you know you are the exception (now what are we going to do about it?).

Bait and Switch – The Power of the Four Denials

As people every one of us tangled in a massive complex infrastructure that sustains our very lives through burning of fossil fuels, we are dependent on fossil fuels. They are precious. SOME of the chemistry and engineering that moves and transforms them does, whether we like it or not, serve us (and as one who enjoys hot showers, coffee, internet and cheap food particularly, I admit I often do like it, even as I experiment with ways to get these pleasures differently < >). But some of the mining and burning is clearly stupid and serving no one but the wealthy mining gambler as high-paid CEO, the engineer with a big paycheck following orders and making the will of the schemers material and concrete, the super-rich financier needing a massive capital-intensive project where to park their money outside a bank. So-called ‘environmentalists’ are scripted to “Just Say No” to all big projects and then painted as naive, but we are more than the term and the protest sign < >. The ‘industrialists’ are scripted to feed projects to the ‘economic developmentalists’ that they know will sacrifice the regions where they are built, poisoning and trapping people with no other options for livelihood. Both tribes pretend they don’t know that and that the opposite is true.

All of these enormous lies flow out of what the carefully-named Gesturing Toward Decolonial Futures folks call “The Four Denials” < >.

  1. the denial of systemic violence and complicity in harm (the fact that our comforts, securities and enjoyments are subsidized by expropriation and exploitation somewhere else),
  2. the denial of the limits of the planet (the fact that the planet cannot sustain exponential growth and consumption),
  3. the denial of entanglement (our insistence in seeing ourselves as separate from each other and the land, rather than “entangled” within a living wider metabolism that is bio-intelligent), and
  4. denial of the depth and magnitude of the problems that we face.

Sit with the four denials a while. Sit some more. We can all become better earthlings through this practice of honesty. No bait and switch, sit with a deeper reality. Then consider: What if Preventing Collapse Isn’t Profitable? <>. Then consider the confessions of a fossil fuel addict who thinks about it real hard < > and her wish list for how we might handle ourselves going forward. This includes

  • rethinking our relationship to the fossil fuels and mined minerals themselves, considering that they have a place in their ground, that they and the lands and beings surrounding them have value as working communities of life and spirit, energy and structure, and not only as extracted, disembodied commodities.
  • Giving love to government regulators and negotiators in tough places trying to figure out how to square a circle and fit round pegs of future life-support in square holes of a culture in a millennias-long death spiral
  • Loving fossil fuel industry folks who have “made both the delights and the difficulties of our current lives possible [and…] need non-violent communications and support in order to divest and/or to fuel transformation.”
  • A complete reconfiguring of the fossil fuel industry. Currently dominated by rapacious profit-driven and destructive corporate entities supporting and protected by military adventure, fossil fuel producers surely need to be taken into public ownership and regulated to invest income in the production of renewables as well as for the public good more broadly… A possibility here though is for fossil fuels and other minerals to be extracted only under structures akin to a Norway-style sovereign wealth fund, established, to ensure responsible and long-term management of revenue from Norway’s oil and gas resources in the North Sea so that this wealth benefits both current and future generations.

Let’s STOP FALLING FOR the bait and switch, let’s stop ENABLING the bait and switch, let’s stop ENACTING the bait and switch on our neighbors. I know its hard to be real, to look at the four denials and our part in them, to consider the scale of what is needed, but it beats the alternative. We are not a bunch of suckers, hanging on every lying word of some sad wizard with a powerpoint behind a shabby curtain.  There’s no place like home everybody.

With love,

Green Economics = Sustainable Future


If you have followed me on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook, you have been witness to my environmental volunteerism. My current volunteer investment is #ReImagineAppalachia. #ReimagineAppalachia covers a four state area with collaboration between non-governmental agencies seeking economic solutions to an area blighted by the greed of outsiders – big coal, oil, gas, and fracking extractive industries. Economic stability and growth comes through targeting #GreenIndustries and carbon capturing.

Poverty is unhealthy. Workers, as well as #CoVID-19 layoffs, need good union jobs with health benefits in green industries not polluting the surrounding #environment. Not only does #GreenIndustry recover well with recession but investing in areas of need like #Appalachia, will create more jobs and healthy communities. Infrastructure improvements and broadband expansion are needed to support these #GreenIndustries. And these new #GreenIndustries are sustainable. As VP Biden said, “We will “build it back better.” God knows #Appalachia needs #BuildBackBetter no matter what the election results. We will need to look beyond elections and push economic strategies, taking worker health seriously.

#SocialDeterminantsofHealth: “Genes load the gun, but environment pulls the trigger” (quote from Dr. Francis Collins, director of the US National Institutes of Health). However, there is a cycle of poverty, health, and environmental injustice continuing in Appalachia unless stopped now. No one should forget #workerhealth and it should be part of any economic plan. Regardless of who wins the election in less than six days, we will need collaboration to move forward towards a #GreenEconomy to reduce U.S. dependence on gas, oil, coal, and fracking. Broadband improvements bring educational opportunities and the potential for telehealth. #GreenIndustries bring jobs with health benefits. There are so many health issues associated with the Extractive industry pollution of the Ohio River Valley and Appalachia. You will see it in my next blog. In the meantime, I think I will read another book.

My Life In Memes – Domestic and workplace aggression

I looked back on seven years of memories on this day, October 26th, with Facebook. I give pause to the memes I posted, maybe what may have been happening at that time. I was always trying to promote this or that clean water, air, and gentler society, There were some down right funny memes because I once was married to a narcissist, and predatory bully.

I believe the many reasons why I tweet, text, meme, Facebook or write about workplace bullying is I have been a target, a victim, and a resilient kick-butt lady. No one knows the details of a person’s inner most life so I do not stand in judgement of anyone for that reason. I have stayed silent so long about my own domestic violence as my predatory bully was my former husband. HIs behaviors could have landed him in jail if witnessed. Rarely were they witnessed.

He died this year. I felt my grown children’s grief but I do not miss the stalking that would occur. I do not miss the spontaneous screaming at my front door or in public because I was, still am, a generally happy person. I don’t miss “accidental” doors shoved into my head. I don’t miss looking over my shoulder or avoiding certain stores. I don’t grieve his loss. I have a sense of relief.

For the sake of my grandson, I went to some of his soccer games until it became too much for me to handle, the side remarks, the resumption of stalking because I was there. I attempted Christmas get-togethers until my husband said it was too much for him to watch the former get territorial. I let go of many experiences, not because I was uninterested in events but because it was safer for me to minimize my contact with him. The assumptions children or grandchildren make is saying the target/victim is not interested because they don’t show up.

When my adult children make assumptions about my lack of participation, I cringe. They don’t remember soccer games where Dad circled my car, beating on it, calling me names, creating an internal terror. I would not go to certain stores because he made these stores or restaurants, his. There was no telling when he would show up at a grocery 20 miles from his house and only a half mile from mine. Right now, they both want to remember the good things with their relationship with him. Thirty years is a long time to really be free finally.

I hope in writing this out, I lay the memories of abuse aside. and keep being free.

Water is Life: I am back!

Hi! It has been a long time since I have blogged. I have been busy. If you follow me on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook, you know I have been out there talking about climate change, its health effects, environmental issues, and workplace bullying (can’t forget that). So, this is why I decided to blog about what I have been doing. I have been working at the intersection of climate and environmental injustice. Working with many climate and environmental groups, I tend to think we are all at the same party. One group works against fracking and cracking, particularly working against a proposed cracking plant in Belmont County, Ohio. I have been fighting for fracking chemical transparency since 2012. Having a cracking plant by the Ohio River increases the potential contamination of the drinking water of 5 million people. Sierra Club is one group. Another group I currently invest my time with works to educate on the health and environmental affects of plastics. Knowing the Ohio legislation, local governments are not allowed to ban or tax plastic bags. however, as individuals, we can stop our use of plastic bags, even with COVID 19, by packing our bags ourselves at the grocery store. We can refuse plastic straws at restaurants. I also now use shampoo bars, not shampoo out of a bottle. We use bar soap but I still have so much farther to go to reduce our carbon and chemical footprint. A2Z Plastics is a great group and will have another program beginning September 17, 2020. You can sign up through Halt the Harm. One group I also invest in works to highlight a new green economic deal for Appalachia from the federal level. Four states of non-profit environmental groups are working together to guide a platform to green industries to replace the damage done by the extractive industries of coal, oil, gas, and fracking. I hope to see most of their platform adopted to help raise Appalachia out of the arsenic and mercury of coal dust. ReImageAppalachia is future thinking. Every group I invest my time with works to better the environment, moving toward green industry, away from coal, oil, gas, and fracking. All of these groups educate the public on climate change, clean air, plastics, and the environmental injustices seen. All of them need to work together and support each other, even if they are not working in the same areas. They are all supporting a future.

Thrive At Life: Working Solutions

18 Signs You Have High Emotional Intelligence A Guest Post by Travis Bradberry


I strongly recommend this read


When emotional intelligence (EQ) first appeared to the masses, it served as the missing link in a peculiar finding: People with average IQs outperform those with the highest IQs 70 percent o…

Source: 18 Signs You Have High Emotional Intelligence A Guest Post by Travis Bradberry

Simmering Discontent?

In a perfect world, all of healthcare would consider both the patient and their employees. I believe we all need to keep our moral and ethical compass to open this up to collaboration so whistleblowing and scapegoating did not occur in any organization, healthcare or industry. As the boundaries between physician and nurse becomes more fuzzy within our education, working together will decrease the friction and increase the trust.

Please click on the link to follow along on one nurse’s thoughts on simmering discontent.


Source: Simmering Discontent?

Why All Ohio Nurses and the Public Should Get Involved In the Clean Power Plan

I want to speak with you today on why it is so important for the Ohio, and nurses everywhere to promote clean renewable energy and the Clean Power Plan.

Our children’s ability to breath depends on reducing Ohio’s carbon pollution. As a registered nurse and healthcare professional, I believe in primary prevention to reduce asthma and other respiratory illnesses in Ohio. Moreover, primary prevention means making sure the air we breathe is clean.

Personally, my husband is affected by poor air quality with his chronic obstructive lung disease. He can no longer mow the lawn without frequent breaks. I have seen him wheeze, become short of breath, and have to stop what he is doing to catch his breath. I have also seen children struggle to breath because of asthma attacks.

Asthma already affects 257,000 children and 832,000 adults in Ohio. Carbon and other volatile organic compounds, like benzene and methane, trigger asthma attacks and other respiratory illnesses. If the Clean Power Plan is implemented, 2,800 lives will be saved and 760 cumulative hospitalizations will be prevented from 2020 – 2030. If Ohio does not work to reduce carbon pollution, Cleveland will experience 11 more days in the summer that exceed the EPA’s air quality standards with Columbus seeing a 28 percent drop in the number of clean days per summer.

This is not just an Ohio health hazard. According to Cincinnati Children’s Division of Asthma Research, every day in this country, 78,000 children or adults miss school or work daily due to asthma. Approximately 35,000 children or adults have an asthma attack daily. Emergency room visits occur daily for 4,600 children or adults due to asthma. Asthma hospital admission will occur for 1,200 children or adults daily due to asthma, and 10 children or adults die each day from asthma.(1)

The economic cost is close to 56 billion dollars a year.(1)

The economic impact to families and loss of productivity to industry struggling to meet benefits is overwhelming. Everyone’s health will be impacted if Ohio and Senator Portman do not support the Clean Power Plan. So I would like every nurse who feels led to, call Senator Portman’s office and support the Clean Power Plan and EPA’s standards for reducing methane. Future lives depend on it.

By 2030, the Clean Power Plan will prevent 3600 premature deaths, 1700 non-fatal heart attacks, 90,000 asthma attacks in children, and 300,000 missed workdays.(2) 

References and other resources





Did the Great Recession fuel a continuing climate of fear in the workplace?

David Yamada and I are like minds. This country needs to put human dignity at the center of our employee relations. One of my business HR mentors stated that employees are “our greatest asset.” When treated with dignity, with actions that consistently display dignity, you earn their trust and increase their productivity. And I have never seen how badly trust has taken a beating with nurses. For the nurses surveyed in my dissertation, one question seemed so pivotal to me: When faced with stressful work situations, I trust the management to look out for me at the place where I work. Of the 80 nurses who answered the survey, 42.5% (n = 34). How administrators, doctors, and nurse leaders act towards their staff matters. Ruling with fear is not the way to building a healthy workplace.

Minding the Workplace

Edvard Munch's &quot;The Scream&quot; (1893)Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” (1893)

According to economists, the Great Recession is officially over, having “ended” sometime during 2009-2010. However, its negative shock waves continue to impact world economies, labor markets, and the experience of work. Among the most costly and underreported effects is how the Great Recession has enabled some employers to stoke an ongoing climate of fear in the workplace.

British psychologist and consultant Sheila M. Keegan, in her thought-provoking new book The Psychology of Fear in Organizations (KoganPage, 2015), suggests that even though the “recession has eased, . . . its psychological effects may well be with us for some years to come.” In fact, she offers the possibility that “just as the Second World War shaped the attitudes of a generation, so too the recent recession will shape the attitudes, behaviours and fears within organizational life for some decades to come.”

This does not bode well…

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