OTHER OPINION: Neighborhood power changes an industry’s plans

The Missouri company that sought to build an LPG transfer station in Southeast Roanoke has pulled its rezoning request, but the need will remain for these terminals as long as demand remains strong for cheap gas, abundantly supplied by the Marcellus and Utica Shale.

The Roanoke terminal would have allowed Inergy Services LLC to better serve propane and butane customers, creating a faster and more efficient supply chain. And while the company thought it found a desirable industrial site that suited its needs – a sizeable undeveloped tract served by roads and rail – the urban location was too close to a neighborhood staging its revival and flexing its political muscle.

The site might have looked like a strip of vacant flood-prone land in an industrial site to Inergy. But to Southeast’s neighborhoods fighting for every bright, green spot, it is viewed quite differently.

Timing, too, didn’t help Inergy’s plan. People already nervous by the volatility of propane and butane – and in such large quantities – were made more so when a propane plant in Florida exploded just as the rezoning request began a public vetting process. Few cared to listen to the company’s safety record and precautions.

Inergy was wise to pull its rezoning application. It faced a long and intense battle, and there was reason to doubt that it could summon enough votes through all the required bureaucratic layers.

The region’s economic development team should be working with Inergy to find a site that suits its need of interstate and rail access but that will not impact a densely populated neighborhood.

Our region, along with the nation, is becoming increasingly reliant on the gases harvested from the Marcellus Shale. We cannot demand cheap, abundant supplies without acknowledging that a delivery network is essential, a transfer terminal is part of that network, and it might be in our back yard.

Roanoke Times

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