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CORR Reflects on 2020 Progress

Last January, Concerned Ohio River Residents laid out a bold vision for the new year in Seeking a Clearer Vision, a supplement to several newspapers and publications across the Ohio Valley. The insert featured an interview with CORR organizers Bev Reed and Dr. Vincent DeGeorge, who directly stated our group’s ambitious objective for the year 2020:

“Our number goal, Concerned Ohio River Residents as a group, is to stop the PTTG ethane cracker plant.”

It’s been an unexpected and profoundly difficult year, but we’re proud to have made good on our promise. As 2020 draws to a close, the PTTG ethane cracker plant is now closer than ever to being scrapped by its increasingly discouraged investors. More than six years and close to $100 million of economic development funds into the project, PTT Global Chemical, the Thailand-based petrochemical company looking to construct the Dilles Bottom cracker, recently announced its intentions to conduct another “feasibility study” of the project. Chief executive Auttapol Rerkpiboon claimed the study could be finished by next year, but the company failed to provide any definite timeline for a final investment decision.

The announcement marks the latest delay in a pattern of economic and logistical disappointments, including falling stock prices, collapsing plastic markets, and the departure of two financial backers, that present a crystal-clear picture of the prospects of this plant. In 2020, we helped raise awareness of the economic and public health problems posed by this plant, sparking conversations about why a business dependent on volatile, pollutant-spewing fossil fuels to produce single-use plastic products is an unsustainable and unhealthy investment. We asked our communities about their visions for a better future, and brought those ideas directly to elected officials. We believe the Ohio Valley deserves a robust, prosperous, and sustainable economy in which we, our families and communities can make a living without the unending pitfalls and environmental wreckage of boom and bust industries, and we’re committed to making that vision a reality.

Although we’ve made lots of progress, there’s still a lot of work to come in the new year. The larger, structural problems we faced at the beginning of this year remain the same:

“When politicians were making these decisions in 2015 to bring this cracker plant here, they didn’t consult any community. We had no input whatsoever. There’s a huge power dynamic. There’s too much power in the hands of a few right now, and that’s what this really comes down to.”

Stopping the petrochemical development of Greater Appalachia is a task that will require redistributing the power that lies in the hands of a few. We’ve come this far by starting conversations, establishing trust, and building relationships within our community, and in the coming year we plan to double-down on that approach. Change starts at the grassroots: if the politicians, executives, and decisionmakers won’t give us the power to decide our future, we’ll build our own power from the ground up.

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