Rockwool’s switch to cleaner fuel does not persuade critics of proposed industrial development project

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SHENANDOAH JUNCTION, W.Va. (WDVM) — The Rockwool industrial plant in the eastern panhandle is touting its conversion from coal to natural gas to power the insulation manufacturing plant. But that has done little to quiet opposition to the industrial facility.

The conversion from coal to cleaner natural gas was supposed to win support from those questioning Rockwool’s commitment to environmental quality. But opponents still say there’s an “out clause” for the company to revert back to coal should it choose to do so. And recent court rulings give opponents hope the plan for switching to gas may not come to fruition.

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline, that’s stopped,” says Jim Webb of Shenandoah Junction. “You know, that seems to be a harbinger of what’s gonna be happening with pipelines. So we’re hoping the Mountaineer Pipeline they’re going to depend on for their fuel – hopefully – they’ll give up also.”

And the critics want to know why natural gas wasn’t the fuel of choice in the first place since the pipeline infrastructure was already there. And they are concerned tourism will suffer if the water quality does.

“There are still issues with fracked gas,” insists Tim Ross with Vision Jefferson County. “So natural gas is not as clear as the ambient air.”

Before Rockwool broke ground, opponents to the project had hoped economic development would center on a plan for a housing and retail complex. Meanwhile, Berkeley County is contemplating a compressor station to accommodate the industrial development project in neighboring Jefferson County.

But supporters of the Rockwool project plan to create up to 200 high paying jobs from which the Jefferson County economy can benefit.

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