The Trump administration is looking to transform the fracking states of West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania into a massive hub for storing natural gas.
The news was announced by the Appalachia Development Group LLC, which the Energy Department invited on Wednesday to apply for a $1.9 billion loan guarantee to support the development of a first-of-a-kind "Appalachia Storage and Trading Hub."
The storage hub will be used to store natural gas liquids that Appalachia has an abundance of but has been looking to create a market for. Companies from around the world have been looking to exploit natural gas by building refining facilities in the region.
The hub could help spur increased industrial expansions and job growth in an economically vulnerable area of the nation.
The announcement sparked the immediate applause of Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who has been touting legislation to study the development of a hub to store natural gas-based liquids used by the chemical and manufacturing industries.
"This storage hub will create jobs and develop our economy by attracting significant manufacturing and related investment to West Virginia and our neighboring states," Manchin said. "It will also be vital in helping to secure our energy future by providing a reliable affordable supply of natural gas liquids."
Manchin's call for a storage hub has been proposed by the West Virginia congressional delegation to be included in any infrastructure bill.
"I look forward to working with the Department of Energy, the Appalachia Development Group to make the Appalachian Storage Hub a reality,” Manchin said.
Initiating the loan guarantee process was the first step taken by the Energy Department to begin the process toward providing federal backing to construct the facility.
A loan guarantee is used to back a risky or first-of-a-kind project by guaranteeing that a bank or lending institution will be paid back in full by the federal government if the company defaults on a loan. The Energy Department sets money aside to back the loan rather than lending the money to the company.
The group's president said Wednesday's announcement was the first of several steps to gaining the loan approvals required by the Energy Department.
“We are pleased to have achieved this major milestone, but we are far from satisfied in our pursuit of a vibrant and growing Appalachia based in sound business principles," said Steve Hedrick, CEO for the Appalachia Development Group.
"There is much work to be done to drive this forward, and our team is strong, prepared and highly motivated to move forward," he said.
The American Chemistry Council says the hub would spur $36 billion in petrochemical investments and create more than 100,000 new long-term jobs.
The National Association of Manufacturers came out in support of the project, touting the same investment and job growth numbers.