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Group protests plastics, fracking, cracker plant

Photo by Eric Ayres Erica Jackson of FracTracker Alliance in Pittsburgh speaks Wednesday at Moundsville Riverfront Park, across the Ohio River from the proposed site for the PTT Global Chemical America ethane cracker plant. Activists spent much of the day Wednesday marching, rallying and filming protests against expanding petrochemical facilities.

WHEELING — A group of regional activists made stops in Wheeling and Moundsville on Wednesday, speaking out against future fracking, the creation of residual plastics and the expansion of petrochemical facilities in the Ohio Valley and beyond.

The events in the area were just one part of a nationwide effort under the banner “Break Free From Plastics Actions Against Extraction.” Organized by the group Concerned Ohio River Residents, the local protests drew activists of all ages and from all walks of life to the Ohio River area to march and speak out for their cause.

A primary focus of the events was to urge President Joe Biden and his administration to stop permitting new and expanding petrochemical facilities like the proposed PTT Global Chemical America ethane cracker plant in Dilles Bottom.

“We’re here to send a message to the Biden administration and also to our local elected officials that petrochemicals, plastics and fracking are not our future,” said Beverly Reed, community organizer for CORR. “There’s a lot of people here in the valley and up and down the Ohio River Valley that want a better future — one that doesn’t rely on boom-bust industries — because we’re ready for something that’s healthy, sustainable and clean.”

Protesters drew attention by hanging banners from the Wheeling Suspension Bridge, marching and rallying near Main Street in downtown Wheeling and speaking at Riverfront Park in Moundsville, across the river from the proposed ethane cracker site. The group filmed the events and speeches, and portions of the footage are expected to be included in a nationwide submission to legislators in Washington.

“One of our ultimate goals is to really encourage the Biden administration to stop subsidizing fossil fuels and petrochemical development, and to reallocate funds that could have been used for those industries into sustainable regenerative agriculture, solar and other alternate industry sources to bring more vitality and a diversified economy to the region,” said Jill Hunkler, a seventh generation Ohio Valley resident.

Members of the group expressed concerns that if a new cracker plant is established, the amount of fracking infrastructure needed to support it would drastically increase beyond what most area residents may expect.

“We need to try to create alternatives with safe, healthy, green jobs,” Hunkler said.

Reed added that fracking and plastics are tied together, and efforts of CORR and other groups help raise awareness and make a difference in how affected residents stand on issues regarding pollution and the petrochemical industry.

Protestors also contended that creation of a new cracker plant would bring a lot of construction jobs to the area at first, but then would operate largely through automation and with out-of-state employees.

Following Wednesday’s events in the Ohio Valley, PTTGCA spokesman Dan Williamson issued a response on behalf of the company.

“A complex of this magnitude can only be successful with local support, and PTTGC America is grateful to have the vast majority of Ohio River Valley residents openly rooting for this project to go forward,” Williamson said. “At the same time, we respect those who have raised environmental concerns, and we look forward to earning their trust by demonstrating PTTGCA’s commitment to reducing waste, combating climate change and protecting public health and safety.”

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