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Residents rally against cracker plant

T-L Photo/ROBERT A. DEFRANK Rally participants protest a potential ethane cracker plant Friday, assembling along W.Va. 2 in Moundsville.

MOUNDSVILLE — A potential ethane cracker plant proposed for Dilles Bottom is facing some opposition.

More than 30 people from communities such as Wheeling, Bridgeport, Moundsville, Shadyside and Weirton held signs and stationed themselves on both sides of W.Va. 2 at the Moundsville Plaza, located across the Ohio River from the proposed plant site. Many drivers honked horns as they passed, and some shouted encouragement and gave thumbs-up signs.

PTT Global Chemical America and Daelim Industrial Corp., based in Thailand and South Korea, respectively, obtained an air permit-to-install and a modified wastewater discharge permit for the project in 2018. Environmental groups opposed to the project immediately challenged one of those permits, but that issue was resolved in September, when a settlement was announced.

Vincent DeGeorge, representing the activist organization Concerned Ohio River Residents and president of Ohio Valley PEACE, said the protesters have environmental and health concerns.

“We’re a group of local citizens who think the truth, all the information about this cracker plant, hasn’t come out, and we’re confident when that information comes out, the environmental concerns, the economic concerns, the health concerns, Ohio River residents will be convinced that this cracker plant is not the way to go, that there are much better alternatives,” he said. “(We’re) letting other people who have concerns about the cracker plant know that they’re not alone.”

DeGeorge said they were concerned there would not be baseline monitoring of pollutants from such a plant. He said their projects include seeking funding to monitor the area for emissions and compile data. He also raised concerns that the plastics such a cracker plant would produce would not be regulated and would find their way into the environment.

Members of the group also spread word of a petition on the Concerned Ohio River Residents website, Facebook page and at NoCrackerPlantOV.com.

“We have a petition with over 2,000 signatures on it. We want our elected officials to see this, to make the decision that’s right for the Ohio Valley, that Ohio Valley citizens want, not these large, foreign countries that have no interest and experience in the region,” he said. “This whole valley gets filled up with smog, and if there’s any pollution in the smog, it just sits in the valley on inversion days.”

DeGeorge also said an economy reliant on fossil fuels eventually will decline, and he said other countries are banning fossil fuels and plastics.

“The fossil fuel industry is on the decline,” he said. “Why should we be investing in the Ohio River Valley in (fossil fuels and plastics) that the world need less of, not more of? It’s setting us up for another economic bust, just like the last fossil fuel industry, coal.”

He said the protestors have doubts about the sufficiency of permits that have been issued by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Among the rally participants was Bev Reed of Bridgeport, who has been assisting in organizing local activism for about a year.

“We have a great turnout for this first rally, and we will continue to have rallies and continue to raise the awareness of the cracker plant and the down sides,” she said. “We’re going to have regular rallies. We’re going to have monthly educational sessions for the public that we continue to invite politicians to. We are going to have speaker’s training for anybody who wants to learn how to be fluent on these topics.”

Reed said more information on upcoming events can be found on NoCrackerPlantOV.com

“I didn’t really know too much about the cracker plant until somebody put … a flier in my door, so I started going to meetings to get some information and I was just flabbergasted at the toxic air that’s going to happen, and the pollution in our water,” Barb Chamberlain of Moundsville said. She is also concerned about the possibility of accidents. “I don’t think people realize what’s about to happen. … I have family who live here, and I just think it’s going to destroy everything around here.”

“I live right outside of Moundsville. … I watch clouds every morning and they’re just a fog all over Moundsville,” Ed Tomlinson of Moundsville said. “If that cracker plant goes on, that fog is going to be there a lot more, and a lot more dangerous.”

“We’re all very concerned about our valley,” Sherry Becker-Gorby of Wheeling, who owns a farm near Mount Pleasant, said. “The cracker plant’s going to bring a lot of pollution with it. I know people are concerned about jobs, but it’s really not an issue of jobs vs. health. We really need to have a healthy environment for ourselves and our generations to come. … We have a culture of jobs vs. health, and I don’t think we should put that in that type of juxtaposition. We really need to be thinking about jobs and health, and there are companies that could come to our region that provide healthy job opportunities that would not pollute our valley –some of the things that deal with renewable energies.”

“I work on a farm, and I’m concerned about water safety, air safety and quality,” Isa Campbell of Wheeling said.

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