Concerned Ohio River Residents
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
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
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
Ben Hunkler and Jill Hunkler
Halting bad development
Fighting industrial contamination
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