Cracker Plant Roundtable Did Not Include Community Input

August 22, 2020

BEV REED & VINCENT DEGEORGE


Last week, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Mark Menezes visited Belmont County, Ohio, to tour the Dilles Bottom site of the proposed PTTGCA ethane cracker plastics plant and ​meet​ with “state and local officials and community members.”


The event was publicized as a “roundtable discussion and listening session.”


Community members including Concerned Ohio River Residents (CORR), a group of locals who have consistently and very successfully demonstrated public leadership in raising community voices, perspectives, and concerns about the proposed cracker plastics plant, made multiple attempts to attend this community meeting. All of CORR’s efforts to participate in this “community” meeting went unanswered and CORR did not attend.


The “community” focus of this meeting proved to be a mere public pretense, while representative community voices were absent from this conversation.


While PTTG and their interests ignore us, more and more people continue joining our perspective that:

  1. Expanded Ohio Valley petrochemical buildout — including cracker plastics plants — is a poor investment with dim future outcomes and returns. And instead,

  2. Resources need to be invested towards better, smarter, and more promising projects and development with overall positive long-term outcomes.

People joining this position include over 3,000 local petition signatories, over 300 local leaders and individuals of faith, local and national economists and engineers, and even petrochemical industry leaders like ​Daelim​, ​Braskem​, and ​Chevron​.


PTTGC’s spokesman, Dan Williamson, was quoted in The Times Leader on Aug. 14 as saying that “project leaders respect CORR members and will continue to try to answer questions from them and others who have concerns.”


The truth is, PTTGC has not answered our questions and inquiries at all.


CORR’s open Feb. 13 letter to PTTGC where we simply asked them to back up many of their public claims about the proposed plastics plant made in The Times Leader on Feb. 4 remains unanswered. Claims that are true can quickly be backed up.


For instance, we’re happy to clear up the claim that PTTGC “will continue to answer CORR’s questions” as false.


Another unannounced facet of this meeting was the promotion of Mark Menezes’ own political history and interests — lobbying for FirstEnergy, AEP and Koch Industries.


Where has that gotten Ohioans? While Ohio reels from dirty energy politics’ largest-ever-in-Ohio corruption and bribery scheme, we can plainly see moneyed interests manipulating our state to support these ill-fated projects. Why should the Ohio Valley support other people’s politics — Thailand’s plastics production or compensation of the Gulf Coast’s petrochemical industry the way a report from Menezes’s office states?


Outside, self-centered interests of the fossil fuel and petrochemical giants continue to exploit us and push a boom/bust economy onto us, even as countless fossil fuel companies go bankrupt and leave us to cover their cleanup costs, to repair their environmental damage, and to keep their broken promises to our workers. They leave Ohio and Ohians dirty, exploited and on the hook.


CORR is asking for the same kind of support and investment from our public servants to go into our community, as is right now given out to overseas petrochemical firms — $70 million from JobsOhio to PTT Global, countless public officials’ hours boosting an outside business’s bottom line.


Use these public resources to build a diversified economy that will leave our region richer in the long run, and not poorer.


As more people realize the environmental, health, economic and net negatives of this cracker plastics project being forced on us, the financial analysts continue being proved right that this cracker is a non-starter.


The Ohio River Valley Institute, a new think tank devoted to achieving lasting jobs in the regions of Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Kentucky was unveiled last week. Its mission is to equip residents and decision-makers with in-depth research, analysis, and commentary to advance long-term solutions to some of Appalachia’s most pressing economic and social challenges.


We want a better vision. One that doesn’t turn the Ohio Valley into another cancer corridor like the Gulf’s petrochem disaster. We want lasting job growth and greater equity through the embrace of the clean energy economy and more inclusive democratic processes. CORR supports this. The newly launched Ohio River Valley Institute supports this. Why don’t our public officials?


We want Ohioans from the Ohio Valley, not failing out-of-state business and political interests, to be included at any round table discussions where decisions that affect our homes, but not theirs, are made. Instead of being excluded, join us by going to www.nocrackerlpantOV.com or calling 740-738-3124.


DeGeorge and Reed are organizers of the Concerned Ohio River Residents, a local group that opposes construction of a proposed ethane cracker in Belmont County and other oil and natural gas activity in the region.