Proposed ethane cracker would threaten communities with toxic air pollution
Columbus, OH – Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services filed an appeal, on behalf of its clients The Sierra Club, Earthworks, Center for Biological Diversity, and FreshWater Accountability Project, challenging a key permit for a massive proposed plastics facility known as an “ethane cracker” in Belmont County. The plant is part of the industry’s push to steeply increase U.S. plastic production.
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency issued PTT Global Chemical America (PTTG) an air permit for the project in late December, after hearing and ignoring testimony from dozens of concerned citizens at public hearings on the plant. The appeal, filed today by the Sierra Club, Earthworks, Center for Biological Diversity, and Freshwater Accountability Project before the Environmental Review Appeals Commission, argues that the State of Ohio grossly underestimated the amount of pollution to be emitted from the plant and should have required more effective technology to reduce those emissions.
The proposed facility is one of five proposed petrochemical plants in the Ohio Valley that would use byproducts from fracked gas to make plastic. Along with a large network of proposed fracked gas pipelines along the Ohio River, the plants would make up the nation’s second largest petrochemical hub. The largest is located in southern Louisiana along the Mississippi River, in an area known as “Cancer Alley” because of the high rates of illness among nearby communities. Ethane crackers are known to release toxic air pollution including cancer-causing benzene and other pollutants.
“We are talking about a major source of air pollution that many people will live with for the rest of their lives. People deserve for the air impacts to be fully considered, and this appeal is about making sure that happens." said Fair Shake Attorney Megan Hunter.
“Communities shouldn’t be forced to breathe toxic, polluted air just to prop up fracked gas and petrochemical companies,” said Sierra Club Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign Director Kelly Martin. “This plant, and the broader effort to build out a petrochemical hub in this area, would be a danger to clean air, public health, and our climate. The health and safety of Ohioans and those who live downstream on the Ohio River are worth more than fossil fuel industry profits.”
“The Ohio EPA's rubber stamp of the cracker plant air permit shows a total disregard for expert input and concerns of the local residents,” said Lea Harper, Managing Director of Freshwater Accountability Project. “We are dismayed that there is not more regulatory oversight of such a toxic polluter in the Ohio River Valley.”
“These plants will contaminate Ohio River Valley communities just to create more plastic pollution,” said Lauren Packard, Staff Attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We need to keep fossil fuels in the ground instead finding wasteful new uses for them. Industry’s plans to increase plastic production will worsen climate change and the ocean plastic crisis at the expense of Ohioans.”
“Ohio EPA knows PTTGCA’s Petrochemical Complex will pollute the air and harm the health of Ohio’s communities. Yet they permitted it anyway,” said Leann Leiter, PA/OH Field Advocate with Earthworks. “Today’s appeal is a step toward correcting Ohio EPA’s flawed decision. Communities living near this cracker plant, and all its connecting infrastructure, deserve the full protection of the law.”