This November, a coalition of community advocates and air quality and health scientists will present two sessions of Making the Invisible Visible, an informational webinar on the inadequate regulation of Ohio’s fracking-related air pollution, specifically focusing on Belmont County and the site of the proposed PTTG ethane cracker plant. The public webinar will be held via Zoom on two dates: Thursday, November 5 and Thursday, November 19 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Interested participants impacted by fracking-related facilities may receive free air monitoring installed near their home at no cost. Public health information will also be provided. Register for one or both sessions of the event at https://bit.ly/visiblewebinar. According to the Environmental Health Project, active frack pads, compressor stations, and processing facilities regularly emit particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and other chemical pollutants invisible to the naked eye. When inhaled, these emissions can cause or exacerbate a host of short- and long-term health problems, including headaches, eye and throat irritation, respiratory complications, chest pain, asthma, and various types of cancer.
Due to inadequate monitoring and permitting processes and negligible industry accountability, local residents are often unaware of their exposure to these pollutants. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) grant permits for extractive infrastructure projects on a case-by-case basis, without adequate consideration of spikes in emissions from nearby oil and gas facilities. As such, the collective air pollution emitted by Belmont County’s 696 permitted wells is neither monitored nor regulated to the extent necessary to protect residents’ health.
“People have to take regulation into their own hands,” said Leatra Harper, managing director of the FreshWater Accountability Project. “It’s not helpful to point out a lack of regulation without the ability to advocate for one’s own protection.”
Local citizens’ advocacy group Concerned Ohio River Residents is circulating a community petition demanding state regulatory agencies, including ODNR and OEPA, immediately freeze the permitting of new fracking- and petrochemical-related facilities until a comprehensive health and environment impact study using actual and projected air emissions data is completed.
The webinar is supported by Thriving Earth Exchange, Freshwater Accountability Project, Carnegie Mellon University’s CREATE Lab, Concerned Ohio River Residents, FracTracker Alliance, Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project, and Halt the Harm Network.