On April 22, 2021, on Earth Day, Jill Hunkler, Organizer for the Concerned Ohio River Residents, testified to the U.S. House Subcommittee on the Environment along with many other activists, including Greta Thunberg. She remarked later that she thought they asked her to testify so that they could hear how the economy of extraction and its consequential pollution impacts an “everyday” American. And so they did.
“I’m a fracking refugee. I was forced from my home at the headwaters of the historically pristine Captina Creek Watershed in Belmont County, OH, after being surrounded by oil and gas infrastructure and its associated pollution, including a compressor station, 78 fracking wells, an interstate and gathering pipelines, all within a 5-mile radius of my home. I lived in the hollow below with Slope Creek running through my yard…I never imagined that my quiet country and healthy way of life would disappear. The negative health impacts we experienced were too much to bear. Belmont County is the most heavily fracked in the state with over 595 producing wells. Those of us living in these once peaceful hills are not only dealing with negative health impacts. We are also experiencing unsafe roadways due to industry traffic, air and noise pollution, public spring and well-water contamination, pipeline explosions and well-pad fires, including one operated by a Norwegian oil company that contaminated a stream resulting in the death of 70,000 fish.”
Jill Hunkler is a mother, teacher, artist, writer, environmental advocate, and grassroots organizer. She is a seventh generation Ohio resident in Belmont County. Since 2018, she and the Concerned Ohio River Residents have been fighting water contamination, air pollution, mining, petrochemicals, and fracking from every direction.
Currently, CORR is organizing to stop two projects. The first is a proposed ethane cracker plant for Dilles Bottom, OH by a Thailand-based petrochemical and refining company, PTT Global Chemical. Cracker plants convert ethane produced from fracked gas into plastic pellets, which are then outsourced to create plastic products. There have been continual delays in this project which signal a lack of investment and commitment from PTT Global Chemical to the project, although they keep sending conflicting signals.
In November, 2020, Vincent DeGeorge, PhD and Ella Jennings of the Concerned Ohio River Residents (CORR) released a statement reacting to an announced delay of the construction of the Belmont County cracker plant:
“A business that is utterly dependent on futureless fossil fuel and whose ‘valuable’ end product is single-use plastic trash the world is already drowning in is not feasible. This economy is not sustainable. The Ohio Valley deserves a robust, prosperous, and sustainable economy in which we, our families and communities can make a living without the unending pitfalls and environmental wreckage of boom and bust industries.”
The second project is connected. In April 2021, CORR joined “the Buckeye Environmental Network, OVEC, Freshwater Accountability Project, and the Sierra Club, to send a letter to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) urging the director to reject applications by Powhatan Salt Company/Mountaineer NGL Storage for three planned solution mining wells.” Draft permits from The Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management are waiting finalization, while public and expert comments are being ignored. This facility is meant to support the PPT Global Chemical Belmont County cracker plant, storing ethane and other gas liquids for Mountaineer NGL Storage.
The Concerned Ohio River Residents have a better vision for the Ohio Valley than being a repository or processing center for fossil fuels that we no longer need and for our health and our climate, can ill afford. CORR has joined a regional initiative, “Re-Imagine Appalachia, working with other states who have been at a long-time disadvantage because of the ‘resource curse,’ that invites outside profiteers, many of them overseas multi-national investors, to eye our water, soil and workforce as a way to make profits for themselves while leaving the pollution for us.”
In an editorial in May 2021, Jill Bunkler made CORR’s goal clear:
“We are asking elected officials to work with us in creating a better vision for the Ohio River Valley. We must diversify our economy and stop relying on the boom and bust cycles of the fossil fuel industry as the savior for our region… Please wake up, and accept the truth, and take appropriate action to right the wrongs supporting this industry has caused. We shall remain persistent and resistant to all that threatens our children’s future.”
Written by Michele Gielis
Community-Led Science Uncovers High Air Pollution From Fracking in Ohio County: Sensors Pinpoint Emissions Missed by Expensive EPA Instruments, Columbia Climate School, May 25, 2022
Resident shares oil and gas concerns, The Times Leader, by Robert A. Defrank, July 1, 2021
Ohio EPA Extends Air Permit for Proposed PTT Global Cracker Plant, The Intelligencer, by Jennifer Compston-Strough, June 23, 2021
Belmont County Cracker Plant Air Permit Expires: Another Critical Blow to Project’s Viability, CORR News update, June 21, 2021
Network of companies looking to move fracking wastewater in barges up and down Pittsburgh’s rivers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, by Don Hopey, May 31, 2021
Utica Midstream event in Canton recognizes future trends call for less carbon, Canton Rep/The Repository, by Edd Pritchard, May 20, 2021
Elected officials should stand against fossil fuels, The Times Leader, Opinion column by Jill A. Hunkler, May 8, 2021
Emissions concerns, job hopes share center stage during meeting on proposed Pleasants County methanol facility, Charleston Gazette, by Mike Tony, May 5, 2021
Hunkler to speak before Congress on oil and gas, The Times Leader, by Robert A. Defrank, April 21, 2021
The Role of Fossil Fuel Subsidies in Preventing Action on the Climate Crisis, Subcommittee on the Environment’s first hearing of the Congress on Earth Day, JIll Hunkler testifying alongside Greta Thunberg, April 22, 2021; Jill starts at 27.58, at this url: https://youtu.be/yRUm8veLKlk?t=1675
Environmental Groups Urge Ohio Department of Natural Resources to Deny Permits for Powhatan Salt Company, Earth Justice Press Release, April 8, 2021
Falcon Ethane Pipeline under investigation, both sides weigh in, WTRF, by D.K. Wright, March 26, 2021
Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act Receives National Support: Projections in Seven U.S. Cities, John Oliver Segment Back Federal Plastics Bill, Center for Biological Diversity Press Release, March 24, 2021
PTTGCA officials deny report of further project delays, The Weirton Daily Times, by Jennifer Compston-Strow, February 22, 2021
PTT Global reinforces timeline for proposed ethane cracker plant, WTOV 9, by Brittany Grego, February 19, 2021
Groups opposing Mountaineer NGL storage, The Times Leader, by Robert A. Defrank, January 22, 2021
Concern emerges over natural gas storage facility in Monroe County, WTOV 9, by Brittany Grego, January 21, 2021
Frack waste loading dock permit challenged in court, The Times Leader, by Shelley Hanson, December 19, 2020
Air Pollution, Water Contamination
Community Farm/Gardens, Fighting Industrial Contamination, Halting Bad Development, Nature-Based Solutions, Renewable Energy
501c3 Tax Deductible