Ohio River Valley Faith Leadership Letter: PTTG Petrochemical Plant

Faith_leaders_letter
Alex Cole, OVEC

The potential air emission numbers are alarming, especially in terms of greenhouse gas emissions – which could greatly exacerbate the major climate disruptions we are experiencing, with increased major storms, causing widespread flooding in the Ohio River Valley region. That's why people of faith need to speak out about the potential health hazards involved in the PTTG petrochemical "Cracker Plant" proposed for construction in Belmont County, Ohio, in the near future.

With this letter campaign, we at WV Interfaith Power and Light hope to influence decision makers to prioritize human health over corporate profits, and stop plans for construction of this plant. Please join us in sending your letter today using the template below:      

We, the undersigned faith leaders, have some critical concerns related to the construction of this proposed petrochemical cracker plant in the Upper Ohio River Valley. Many of us believe: “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof,” as the Psalmist in the Jewish and Christian traditions says. The Ohio River is the tap water source for five million people in communities along its length. Thus, the highest possible standards for preserving water quality should be maintained, and any major construction that increases pollution levels in the river carefully scrutinized. Additionally, we are concerned about toxic air emissions the plant would produce, adding to the overall toxic burden from other nearby industrial facilities. These emissions are especially harmful because our mountainous terrain makes this river valley prone to air inversions that trap health-harming toxins near ground level. With these concerns in mind, we believe the construction of such a plant would greatly endanger nearby citizens and ecosystems. “Look around you,” says the Buddhist monk Thich Naht Hanh, “what you see is not your environment - it is you.” Therefore, we urgently ask that you reconsider plans for this facility. Below, we have outlined some specific reasons for our request.

The Ohio EPA did not take into consideration the phenomenon of air inversions when permitting this facility. Air inversions occur frequently in the Ohio River Valley, when colder, denser air gets trapped underneath a blanket of warmer air, and pollutants get trapped close to the ground. This causes the public to be exposed to higher levels of pollution. This is particularly concerning as many Ohio Valley residents are elderly, live in poverty, or have pre-existing health conditions. A massive petrochemical cracker plant would only worsen the surrounding air quality and health of the region.  

According to PTTG’s own permit application, the facility could emit the following into the air:

Particulate Matter (PM): 120 tons per year
Particulate Matter size 10 micrometers (PM10): 89 tons per year
Particulate Matter size 2 micrometers (PM2.5): 86 tons per year
Sulfur dioxide (SO2): 23 tons per year
Nitrous oxides (NOx): 164 tons per year
Carbon monoxide (CO): 544 tons per year
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) (aka "air toxics"): 396 tons per year
Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S): <1 ton per year
Carbon Dioxide equivalents (Greenhouse Gas Emissions): 1,785,043 tons per year

These numbers are alarming, especially in terms of greenhouse gas emissions – which could greatly exacerbate the major climate disruptions we are experiencing, with increased major storms, causing widespread flooding in the Ohio River Valley region.

Since waste discharges from the proposed PTTG cracker plant site could degrade the drinking water quality for communities in several states, water quality standards in this area should meet or exceed those established by the Ohio River Sanitation Commission, (ORSANCO), OH EPA, and WV DEP. ORSANCO’s current standards, and a definition of the uses of the River, which must be maintained, can be found here: http://www.orsanco.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Final-Standards-Doc-2019-Revision.pdf

In the event the plant does get built, we support the concerns that have been identified by faith leaders from the local communities which will be most impacted by the construction and operation of this facility. These concerns include a need for at least 50% of the construction and ongoing operational jobs going to present residents of the impacted communities in Ohio and WV, with fair wages and union neutrality being provided to all workers. We understand this would add to construction and operation costs, but affected communities should at least reap some benefit from the extreme health and environmental costs they will bear.

Finally, in the midst of the current pandemic, we must raise the question of whether all facilities, housing and transport units can possibly meet or exceed World Health Organization (WHO), state and federal guidelines for COVID 19, and/or other highly infectious diseases. Can all workers be trained in social distancing, and supplied with sufficient PPE equipment to meet the standards set forth from all the above listed health organizations?

Because of community and environmental concerns listed above, and because there are increasing questions about the financial viability of this facility, we strongly urge you to abandon plans for the facility and turn the property – which has been remediated and developed via some US public funds – over to the local community for other projects.

Signed,

West Virginia Interfaith Power and Light Steering Committee Members

Letter Campaign by
Robin Blakeman
Huntington, West Virginia