Belmont County Commissioner's meeting recap
A group of about 15 or so (mostly) Belmont County residents met with the Belmont County Commissioners during the final week of 2019. The commissioners were given a long list of facts, science-based arguments, and personal sentiments by various residents regarding the proposed PTT Global ethane cracker plant. People from various towns and organizations were given time to voice their opinions and ask questions.
The overall tone of the meeting was mutually respectful. It was organized by a freshly-formed citizens group, Concerned Ohio River Residents. I am one of the spokespeople. If you are not aware of who we are please read our description on this website or see our Facebook page. Side note: all 3 of the commissioners support the cracker plant and are positively anticipating its construction. One of the goals of the meeting was to provide the commissioners with ample facts and information that our group has uncovered through digging and research and talking with experts and also to share our personal feelings on the plant. The goal was accomplished. We outlined the fact that the economy would only see a short term bump and the addition of the cracker plant would not result in long-term economic growth for the region based off a study done by 2 economic professors in PA (link pasted at bottom). We expressed concern over how many jobs would be out-of-state workers rather than local. We stated the fact that many people want an alternative economic vision for the valley- a vision not centered around another boom-bust cycle that will not result in long-term positive growth but instead lead to an industrial build-out that could attract many more polluting plants and an industry that is losing demand world-wide.
We shared with them some health data/vulnerable population rates of Belmont County taken from the American Lung Association: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: 4,872 , lung cancer: 46, cardiovascular disease: 5,951, diabetes: 6,661, children under 18: 12,941, adults 65 & over: 13,776, poverty estimate: 7,114. We gave them a one-page sheet of air permit deficiencies from PTT Global’s air permit they were granted by Ohio EPA in 2018. The Ohio EPA used a flawed model to evaluate air emissions from the proposed PTTGCA Petrochemical Complex. This means that Ohio EPA did not consider the actual emissions expected to come from PTTGCA, but used an inaccurate and faulty model in its assessment. This model ignored, underestimated, and improperly excluded important emissions sources at the PTTGCA Petrochemical Complex, as well as relevant background data. We mentioned the fact that the air permit did not take into consideration the air temperature inversions that the valley is prone to. We highlighted the recent week-long air inversion that blanketed the valley in a smog-like atmosphere around Christmastime and that a cracker plant would only worsen health impacts since the pollution would get trapped in the valley's air inversions (see air inversion video links at bottom).
We pointed out that the water of the Ohio River will also be impacted. Our legal research found that the Safe Drinking Water Act does not include regulations for most of the pollutants PTTGCA is permitted to discharge into the Ohio River. This means the levels of these pollutants may be going up in the drinking water for the millions of people who rely on the Ohio River for their drinking water. This means drinking water will not be tested for these pollutants, despite these pollutants posing a known risk to human health. In other words, the Safe Drinking Water Act will likely not address the risk to drinking water posed by new discharges from the PTTGCA petrochemical complex.
We shared with them why many people feel that the Ohio River Valley could become a petrochemical manufacturing sacrifice zone. We expressed concern over the fact that the people of the Ohio River Valley would suffer the health impacts, health care costs, potentially sky-rocketing rent prices, increased traffic, etc. while the profits would go overseas to major corporations who's CEOs do not have to live here.
We requested that health care resources become available at the Belmont County health department for those impacted by fracking and the potential cracker plant since there are currently no resources.
The commissioners were invited to the next community meeting in Moundsville on Jan 9th.
We pointed out that the 1.7 million annual tons of CO2 emissions from the plant would result in the equivalent of about 400,000 additional cars being on the road annually. We specifically asked the commissioners if they believed the reports of climate disruption to be credible. Commissioner Echemann stated that he simply doesn't know whether he believes the science to be credible. Commissioner Dutton stated that he believes that human activity is contributing to climate change but he doesn't know to what extent the scientific claims about climate change are true, specifically to what extent climate change is happening. Commissioner Meyer was out sick.
We stated that all the above mentioned negative impacts were for the end result of plastic and this is very concerning given the current level of devastating ecological plastic contamination around the world. They were given peer-reviewed articles on plastic pollution, including articles showing microplastic particles found in human stool, the Great Lakes, beer, salt, and tap water. We encouraged them to be a part of the plastic pollution solution, rather than part of the problem. We gave them our petition with about 2,200 signatures and asked them to pull their support of the cracker plant and instead state publicly a neutral stance on the project. We thought this was a reasonable ask. The two commissioners in attendance both stated that they support the plant.
J.P. Dutton stated that the commissioners "do not evaluate any business coming to Belmont County based on its environmental impact... we will welcome any business that wants to come here." They were asked what the county's plan is if the industry goes belly-up and the county has to clean up the mess from an abandoned facility. They did not answer the question directly, but instead stated that they believe the plant is a good idea financially.
This blog was written about the meeting to simply document the meeting and the outcomes and to serve as a reference for anyone who could potentially be impacted by this cracker plant and the associated infrastructure- not to disparage anyone or to create divisions. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about the meeting or if you would like to attend any future meetings.
Economic article> https://www.timesonline.com/news/20180918/study-cracker-plant-will-temporarily-boost-income-employment
Moundsville air inversion> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYN85buoKk4
Air inversions explained> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_U3TXHBt-0