Editorials, Opinion

Secretive ‘science facility’ seems like a major polluter

Usually, when a new business or industry makes its home around Morgantown, local politicians and business advocates are positively abuzz, talking to anyone who will listen and promoting the area’s newest addition.

But that’s not the case with the mysterious “science facility/data processing center” coming to the Morgantown Industrial Park.

So far, the only thing we know is that Marion Energy Partners applied to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection for a permit for its 10,000-square-foot facility. The center’s four natural gas-fired engines — operating 24/7/365 — would pull natural gas from a nearby Northeast Natural Energy well pad. (Northeast Natural Energy appears to be Marion Energy Partners’ parent company.)

Nothing else is really known, though it’s suspected the new facility will be a cryptocurrency mining operation. As we reported Wednesday, cryptocurrency mining uses banks of specialized computers to validate blockchain transactions for a specific cryptocurrency (such as Bitcoin) in order to receive percentages of said currency in return. The process is extremely energy intensive and has come under fire for its massive carbon footprint.

Essentially, what Monongalia County is looking at is a carbon- and air pollution-spewing factory that creates few, if any, jobs or economic opportunity.

It’s immensely concerning that a major polluter could be setting up shop in our backyard and no one knows anything about it. Neither company will respond to requests for comment, and even the Monongalia County Commission is being tight-lipped about the project. (Despite its name, the Morgantown Industrial Park is outside city limits.)  

Mon County residents are well within their rights to demand more information. Air pollution is never confined to the area where it is emitted, and we’d want to a see a plan from Northeast Natural Energy and/or Marion Energy Partners that details how they would protect the community from any toxins or chemicals the facility ejects. We’d also like to see the companies’ proposals for offsetting the center’s carbon emissions.

In a consumer-driven economy, some trade-offs are to be expected. For example: Accepting some pollution in exchange for well-paying jobs and a measurable boost to the local economy. That’s why coal mines are still welcomed in most of West Virginia. However, there isn’t enough information about the center publicly available to make a list of pros and cons. At the moment, the proposed facility seems to offer no jobs, no tangible product and little-to-no benefit to taxpayers.

If you, too have concerns about the secretive center, contact the DEP by 5 p.m. today. Send air quality-related comments to edward.s.andrews@wv.gov. Include “Marion Energy Partners LLC” in the subject line. Non-air quality related comments can be emailed to depadvocate@wv.gov.

And after you’ve emailed the DEP, please contact our commissioners and let them know the community would like more information on this “science facility.”

You can call 304-291-7257. (Please be polite to whomever answers the phone.) You can also send letters to 243 High St., Room 202, Courthouse, Morgantown, WV, 26505. The commission meets every Wednesday at 10 a.m. at the address listed above, if you would like to convey your concerns in person.