How can we create a better future for the Ohio Valley?

This editorial was written by Bev Reed, RN, BSN, CORR leader

Published in the Times Leader newspaper on July 26th, 2020.


July 19th’s Times Leader featured an opinion piece by Greg Kozera, marketing and sales director of Shale Crescent USA. Mr. Kozera’s letter contained many false assumptions that were very misleading to the public. His letter made it seem like the choices for the future of the Ohio Valley are all "one or the other." This letter will rectify these misleading statements and provide some real hope for the future of the Valley. I would also like to address the undrinkable water of Bridgeport, Ohio.


As a young person who grew up in this Valley and who is still trying to decide whether or not to stay long-term, and as a registered nurse with public health knowledge and experience, I look at the petrochemical plans laid out by our state and local leaders with a close eye. Mr. Kozera and I agree on something: the Ohio Valley needs good, quality, family-sustaining jobs. When I graduated high school 10 years ago, most of my classmates, including myself, could not wait to leave in search of something better. Since I moved back a few years ago, I realized that there were only a few of my old classmates still here. We can create a sustainable, reliable, exciting future for the region that will retain and attract young people, but only if everyone is listened to. I have talked to many young (and older) people who plan to move out if the petrochemical industry were to take root.


Mr. Kozera asks the question, “will anti-fossil fuel people walk the talk and stop using plastic and all products of fossil fuels? They can start by getting rid of their cell phones, computers, and cars.” This is a common response that Concerned Ohio River Residents receives, and it is simply used to distract people away from the global crisis of single-use plastic waste. We are not opposed to banning ALL types of plastic products. Cars, cell phones, and computers are not single-use items. National Geographic reports that plastic packaging makes up about 40% of all plastics produced today and the World Economic Forum reports that plastic pollution could outweigh fish in the ocean by 2050 if we continue our current path.


Jobs must be reliable and sustainable. Recent reports from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis state that many market conditions challenge this industry- not just COVID-19. And a letter written by a group of area economists and academics to the tri-state area governors called on them to invest in a reliable economic development model stating that, “We see additional economic and technological barriers, which are likely to outlast the current economic crisis and make the construction of more crackers in the Ohio Valley and southwestern Pennsylvania highly unlikely. Consequently, projects that depend on a build-out of four to five crackers, including development of large natural gas liquids storage facilities such as the proposed [Appalachian Storage Hub] and a major expansion of the downstream plastics manufacturing sector, are also unlikely to be realized as are the jobs they are expected to provide.” Nowhere in his proposal does Mr. Kozera mention what we really need- a diversified economic model- a model that spreads out our resources and potential, rather than relying on a single industry- fracking and petrochemicals to be the “magic bullet”.


One major jobs producer could be energy efficiency jobs. According to the 2020 U.S. Energy and Employment Report, energy efficiency is the least costly electricity resource. Think construction (skilled trades, laborers, architects), HVAC contractors/workers, lighting contractors/workers, home/building and remodeling/weatherization contractors/workers, insulation contractors, manufacturers of building materials, doors and windows, heating and cooling systems, etc. This sector alone provides more jobs in Ohio than the coal, natural gas, and transmission, distribution, and storage industries combined. Concurrently, E2’s recent Clean Jobs America report found nearly 3.3 million Americans working in clean energy – outnumbering fossil fuel workers by 3-to-1.


Mr. Kozera does not recognize that we are well into the transition zone, where the uses of fossil fuels will diminish by the day as the future unfolds. Effective battery reserve systems for household and light industry use are already on-line, such as the Tesla Powerwall and several others. New battery chemistries are already coming on-line, and many will come shortly, such as Solid Electrolyte batteries and others that do not require cobalt. The "million mile" car battery is going into production. The cost per kWh in solar and in battery systems is coming down by the day, while the costs of fossil fuel extraction will continually increase over time. Not far in the future, the uses of fossil fuels will be limited to those which are cost-effective and lack viable alternatives.

We have seen time and again PTTG, the company behind the proposed ethane cracker plant, failing to stick to commitments for a Final Investment Decision. And with the pulling out of Daelim Chemical, CORR’s arguments become solidified: petrochemicals are not a good investment for the Valley. Why would Daelim pull out if this were a good investment?


On a related note, it was reported last week in the local news that Bridgeport’s water is unsafe to drink because of potentially dangerous levels of PFAS, a man-made group of chemicals that has been known to cause cancers and birth defects. Everyone should watch the documentary “The Devil We Know” and the movie “Dark Waters”. Both tell the story of the DuPont plant that knowingly and willingly poisoned thousands of people for years with these same exact chemicals. The contamination of Bridgeport’s water goes to show just how susceptible the aquifers around here are and point to why it is so critical we do everything we can to protect our water. The Ohio River is a drinking water source to 5 million people. (Update: it was reported on 7/24/20 that Bridgeport's water is safe to drink.)


If you would like to learn about the truth behind the implications of the petrochemical build-out and to help others advocate for a better future for the Ohio Valley, call us at (740) 738-3124 or find us on Facebook. Our website is www.nocrackerplantOV.com. We would like to work together and amplify the ideas of those who live here to create the future that we want to see.