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Ohio Valley Residents Respond to Oil And Gas Documentary

Viewers Call Film On Plastic Waste ‘Eye Opening’

MOUNDSVILLE — For some of the nearly 50 people who turned out to view a documentary film screening, the film not only provided a new perspective about how widespread the plastic waste problem is worldwide — but it also validated their concerns about the proposed PTT Global Chemical America plant for Belmont County.

The Ohio Valley citizens group, Concerned Ohio River Residents, made the educational documentary prerelease screening of “The Story of Plastic” available Saturday afternoon at the Grave Creek Mound Historical Site theater in Moundsville. The group invited dozens of invited local “decision makers” and politicians in an effort to showcase the global plastic pollution crisis that the world now faces, according to Bev Reed, an organizer of the group.

She said while the 90-minute film still has still not been released to the public by its creator, Deia Schlosberg, she is hopeful the film will be made available to the public as soon as possible. Reed said the film is “very eye opening,” and that the group members feel very fortunate to have access to an early viewing.

“The Story of Plastic” focuses on exposing the truth behind the plastic pollution crisis, according to its creators. In the film, footage shot over three continents illustrates the ongoing catastrophe: fields full of garbage, heaps of trash; rivers and seas clogged with waste; and skies choked with the runoff from plastic production and recycling processes.

The film shows interviews with experts and activists, and scenes which reveal the impact of the flood of plastic on ecosystems and communities around the world, and the global movement rising up in response.

Reed said the film was meant to highlight the risks such industry would pose to the region, if the proposed Dilles Bottom ethane cracker plant would come to fruition.

“It shows shots from around the world of communities that are drowning in plastic … and shows why we need to be alarmed,” Reed said. “This cracker plant would create about 3 billion pounds of plastic feed stock pellets per year — much of what would be used for single use plastics. It’s impacting our human health. It’s impacting animal health.

“By 2050 plastic will outweigh fish in the world’s oceans so it’s very worrisome,” she added.

Reed said another issue is the proposed cracker plant would be built by companies from overseas and the profits would not stay here.

“The whole reason (companies) want to build this is to use our gas, that we have here in the shale, and to create this plastic — all for their profit,” she said.

A panel discussion was held in the theater following the film. Dr. Randi Pokladnik, a local retired environmental scientist/research chemist spoke about the impacts that plastic — especially single-use plastics — and petrochemicals have on health, and the cracker plant’s potential impact on the Ohio River. Upon her introduction to the crowd, Pokladnik quickly noted how disappointing it was not to have one local politician in attendance.

“Why don’t the local politicians show up and watch this? What are they afraid of — that they might learn something that is disturbing,” Pokladnik said. “If you go into the grocery store today, it’s hard to shop without finding everything you pick up is encased in plastic. When I was little, I remember a lot of things came in glass and there wasn’t any plastic. You used butcher paper for meats and things like that. I think we have to, … as a population, rethink the way we look at our lifestyles because so much of this is unnecessary. … If you look at it, at the end of the day there’s a choice we have to make — do we have this ‘throwaway’ lifestyle that we think we can manage sustainably or do we live on a liveable planet.”

Also as part of the panel discussion, which the group livestreamed via Facebook, Beaver County, Pennsylvania resident Terri Baumgardner discussed what it’s like living near the Shell cracker plant and a panelist from Texas who lives near petrochemical facility participated via video conferencing.

Shadyside Resident Susan Brown, who is a Concerned Ohio River Residents member, said she learned a lot from watching the film. She said she’s trying to learn more about the health issues that cracker plant could possibly create if it would indeed be built in Belmont County.

“It was educational in a lot of aspects — in realizing how global the issues are … and what we should be doing,” said Brown, who is also a former resident of Dilles Bottom.

She said the companies using all of these throwaway plastics need to be held accountable for their actions. Brown said she feels gas companies should not be able to just come into an area and do what they want and produce what they want to produce.

“For me it’s the justice of it. … I’m, just trying to be involved and make other people aware of it,” she added.

Organic farmer Mick Luber, who said he lives “in the middle of all that fracking out there” in Cadiz, said he thought the film was very good.

“It was in-depth, and from every perspective from around the world,” he said.

Luber said it show just how much companies need to be held more responsible for all of the plastic packaging going on around the world.

While no final investment decision has been made in the proposed PTT Global Chemical America plant to be located in the Dilles Bottom area of Belmont County, the plant, if constructed, would use byproducts from fracked natural gas to make polyethylene, a component of plastic. Ethane is one of the natural gas liquids found in abundance in the local natural “wet” gas stream, particularly in the Utica and Marcellus shales. The Bechtel Corporation confirmed last June that it had been selected to oversee construction of the multi-billion dollar facility if a final decision were made to construct it.

Bechtel currently is overseeing construction of Royal Dutch Shell’s cracker plant in Monaca, Pennsylvania. The proposed PTT Global Chemical America plant at Dilles Bottom, just south of Shadyside along the Ohio River, would be of similar size and scale to the Shell plant. PTT, based in Thailand, has been studying and assessing the local market since at least late 2015, when it announced it would tap into the region’s large concentration of wet gas from Marcellus and Utica shale drilling and build an ethane cracker plant at the former FirstEnergy R.E. Burger power plant site.

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