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Concerned residents oppose cracker plant

The following letter was written by Concerned Ohio River Residents to PTT Global Chemical, via Public Relations Representative Dan Williamson:

Concerned Ohio River Residents are writing this open letter to address the inaccurate and misleading statements recently made to our local media about the proposed PTTG ethane cracker plant. People need to know the truth, so we are writing to counteract those who don’t tell the truth to Ohio Valley residents in order to help themselves.

Recent messaging portrays a misleading story of cracker plants, fossil fuels, and plastics. Only the positive aspect of the jobs promise is mentioned, and externalized costs such as public health impacts are ignored. For instance, a recent study done by the Carnegie Mellon University in reference to the Shell cracker being built near Pittsburgh (which is of similar size) highlighted the following:

∫ The fracking industry has resulted in a net economic loss of over $36 billion when all costs are accounted for.

∫ The air quality harms have already exceeded the employment benefits by over $2 billion.

∫ The industry costs boil down to $2 per thousand cubic feet of gas. This is nearly 100% of the current market price. The public is basically subsidizing the industry at nearly 100% of the value of resource, but the industry keeps the profits and the public bears all of the negative aspects.

∫ The region continues to lose population despite any economic incentives from the industry.

∫ Once the Shell plant turns on, that is the time when the negatives will impact the community.

Assumptions are made and facts are overlooked, such as the fact that the cracker plant would cost our communities millions, perhaps even billions in health care costs, according to an EPA model on air pollution. Similarly, we dispute the following assertions:

∫ That “jobs” — permanent, good paying, local jobs — will follow this multi-billion dollar investment, even as we lost 10 times more jobs when our hospitals closed which needed less than a tenth of the investment. We need a diversified economy ­– not one dependent on one boom-bust industry to sustain this area.

∫ That we should increase our fossil fuel dependence and single use plastic production, even as our communities and the rest of the world is divesting from fossil fuels and taking action to cut down on plastic use;

∫ That the fossil fuel/plastics industry won’t be bad for our health, even as research already ties it to thousands of premature deaths (shortening one year of life for every three industry jobs). This is according to the CMU study. The fact that the EPA permitted this facility in a valley prone to air temperature inversions (that will trap the pollution) and on a drinking water source, is dangerous for public health.

∫ The industry the cracker plant project is based upon, fracking, has been shown to impact public health, and frack waste has been found to contain dangerously high levels of radioactivity and it is being disposed of in dangerous ways, such as spreading on roads.

∫ That this fossil fuel/plastics industry won’t be bad for our environment, even as accidents do occur in the industry, like Exxon’s Belmont County frack pad explosion in 2018 that released more toxic greenhouse gas into the atmosphere in 20 days than some countries’ entire oil and gas industries do in a year, according to a recent Columbus Dispatch article;

∫ That that this fossil fuel/plastics industry will be safe, even as one of “Cancer Alley’s” cracker plants exploded over last Thanksgiving, and according to a CBS news story, caused 60,000 residents to evacuate their homes!

The truth is that this gross expansion of the fossil fuel and plastics industry costs our community far more — in the loss of economic diversity and opportunity, lives, health, and environment, than the economic benefits are worth, especially considering the publicly-funded expenditures made already, and tax abatement incentives promised.

The remainder of this letter specifically addresses inaccuracies about plastics, fossil fuels, and the proposed cracker that PTTG made to our local media on Feb. 5:

∫ You stated that the plant would protect and restore the Ohio River. The OEPA granted the water pollution permit without looking at certain levels of existing pollutants permitted to be dumped into the river. The OEPA also outlined that this cracker plant would result in a “decrease in water quality of the Ohio River.” It states this in the permit. So, this is in fact the opposite of what you are claiming.

“Use of clean fuels to lower sulfur dioxide emissions and install continuous emissions monitoring systems.” The Clean Air Act requires that companies install continuous monitoring systems. This is not “going beyond what is legally required,” which is what you stated PTTG will be doing. Also, the “clean fuel” you are referring to, natural gas, is not “clean” outrightly. This is a misleading statement.

“Refining production processes to minimize pollutant emissions and to optimize use of resources throughout the supply chain.” Again, the Clean Air Act requires processes that minimize pollutant emissions. This is not going above what is required by law. Also, the second half of your statement here is vague and provides no context to your claims about the use of resources.

“Selling the byproduct of carbon dioxide to producers of sodium carbonate in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while also conforming to circular economy principles by using waste as feedstock.” In PTTG’s permit, they can emit 1.7 million tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere per year — not to mention all the methane released from the fracking process and the diesel truck emissions from transport of liquids, etc. The entire plastics production process is very energy intensive. How is this project helping with the climate crisis? We should be moving in the opposite direction.

“Collaborating with stakeholders to optimize the reuse of waste.” Who are the stakeholders and how exactly will the waste be reused? Can you outline your plan in detail?

“Reducing the proportion of nonrenewable resources and increasing the renewable or recycled resources.” Again, this process uses fracked gas, which is not a renewable resource, to make 3 billion pounds of virgin plastic pellets every year. We have been told by researchers that this plant will require about 100,000 barrels of ethane per day and about 1,000 new fracked gas wells to be drilled every 3-5 years. This cracker plant will inevitably contribute to the climate crisis and plastic pollution crisis.

“Initiation of an upcycling plastic waste project to transform plastic waste into useful items, such as clothing and bags, and to train people in surrounding communities to produce materials from recycled plastics.” Your statements do not provide specifics and so we have no way of knowing if these initiatives will actually take place in the U.S. However, even if these things do happen, the 14 bottles that it takes PTTG to create a recycled shirt won’t put a dent in the 315 plastic bottles each American uses each year. The plastic pollution production tap is on full blast and you are touting bailing us out with a teaspoon.

“Natural gas facilities, including ours, will seek and find new technology so that the emissions we do produce are even less than they are now.” How can you guarantee that technology will improve? The planet cannot wait until that technology improves. Experts at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are telling us to drastically reduce emissions NOW. We also cannot rely on corporations to pay more for better technology when it is typically their main priority to increase profits rather than protect the environment.

“We are aware that PFAS (forever chemicals) are harmful, and the PTTDLM project will not manufacture or use PFAS in the construction or operation of the plant.” PTTG may not be making “forever chemicals,” however, they would be making a “forever material” — plastic, and dumping many, many tons of toxic chemicals into the river.

We welcome it when people from out of town want to come here, as you said, to be “good neighbors.” But we have already witnessed the untrue promises of the fossil fuel industry that led directly to shuttered factories, laid off workers, compromised their health and polluted communities. It benefited some, but left a crippled economy here a few generations later.

The region is still economically depressed, having missed out on investments in better, longer-term industries of the future. So we’re sorry, but to be a good neighbor in this case is for PTTG to be responsible and clean up the plastic they’ve already made and to advocate the same here as Thailand has done where they have banned the very single-use plastic PTTG wants to make here. And, it certainly means not make any more new plastic, especially not in our neighborhoods. You said, “Those are non-negotiable things to have. We need breathable air, drinkable water. We’re right there with them.” And, because we insist on our own clean air and water, we must also insist on No Cracker Plant in the Ohio River Valley.

Bev Reed and Vincent DeGeorge, Ph.D., represent Concerned Ohio River Residents, a group of grassroots organizations and Ohio Valley residents concerned about the potential impact of the proposed PTT Global Chemical America/Daelim Chemical USA ethane cracker plant that may be built at Dilles Bottom.

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