The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Peter Hart,

As Trump Tours Petrochemical Plant, Activist Groups Push Back

Fight to Stop Massive Clean Energy Loan Guarantee to Fracked Gas Storage Site


As Donald Trump visits a Shell petrochemical plant in Beaver County to promote his support for the fracking and plastics industries, a coalition of groups working to stop the environmentally dangerous fossil fuel buildout in the region are highlighting a dubious plan to use a clean energy program to offer a massive loan guarantee to a gas storage 'hub.'

The groups released a letter today urging the Senate to support an amendment similar to one passed in the House (HR 2740) that clarified the purpose of the program in question, and to oppose any plans to use a Department of Energy (DOE) loan guarantee program to support fossil fuel projects.

On June 19, the House of Representatives passed an amendment filed by Reps Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) clarifying that funds used in the Title XVII clean energy program cannot be used to support projects that do not decrease greenhouse gas emissions.

That program is intended to provide loan guarantees for projects that "avoid, reduce or sequester air pollutants or anthropogenic [human-caused] emissions of greenhouse gases." The advocates point out that a fossil fuel storage facility built to support the petrochemical industry is clearly outside the scope of the project.

The DOE is currently considering a $1.9 billion loan guarantee for the Appalachian Storage Hub, a key part of a massive petrochemical buildout in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. The multi-billion dollar facility would provide a steady supply of natural gas liquids like ethane, a key feedstock for plastic and petrochemical production, to surrounding facilities.

"This storage hub would help create a cluster of fracked gas, petrochemical and plastics infrastructure that would transform the region into a new Cancer Alley - and it would absurdly be enabled by a federal clean energy program," said Wenonah Hauter, executive director at Food & Water Watch. "This Trump-friendly scheme would expose Appalachian residents to increased harm from fracking and industrial toxic emissions, while creating more plastic trash that is filling our oceans. The Senate must follow the lead of the House by voting to ensure that our clean energy programs actually promote clean energy, not filthy fracking and plastics."

"The scheme for a petrochemical hub in the Ohio Valley is yesterday's answer to today's problems, and it ignores tomorrow's crises. It ignores climate change, which would be worsened by every element of the plan. It ignores the rapidly increasing problem of plastic waste choking our oceans and infiltrating our bodies--and the rapidly increasing movement away from plastic. And it ignores the steady movement toward cleaner, sustainable energy sources like wind and solar. This is not a plan for sustainable economics for the people of our region--it's a plan to keep the fracking industry going a little longer," said Mary Wildfire, a West Virginia resident and volunteer with the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition.

"Our communities have been disappointed by boom-and-bust economies for too long for our representatives to continue to invest public dollars in them. We need and deserve investments in good, clean jobs, creating an economy that thrives and a healthy environment," said Sarah Martik from the Center for Coalfield Justice.

"It is of utmost importance that the Senate votes in favor of this amendment. The Appalachian region has been a sacrifice zone for the fossil fuel industry long enough. These hills and valleys of Appalachia are beautiful. We should start healing and replenishing this region, not pillaging and polluting it even more. The U.S. government should not fund these toxic, awful projects," said Bev Reed, a resident of Belmont County, Ohio and an intern with the Sierra Club's Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign.

"Trump and his administration's actions, from the secretive $83.7 billion-dollar memorandum of understanding with China to trying to tap taxpayer dollars to promote this massive petrochemical complex in the Appalachian region, is a blatant railroading of our democracy in favor of corporate interests," said Dustin White, project coordinator with the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition. "If allowed to be built, this petrochem hub would severely impact human health and perpetuate the already severe economic and environmental injustice in the region while exacerbating climate change and extreme plastic pollution globally. A truly great President would prioritize the health and safety of people over corporate profits and pollution."

The Shell plant Trump is visiting has been backed by over $1 billion in state tax cuts and other subsidies; other petrochemical 'cracker' plants are planned for the Appalachian region. The storage hub is the centerpiece of a multi-billion network of pipelines and infrastructure that would transform the area into a chemical manufacturing cluster to take advantage of the nearby fracked hydrocarbons.

"These plastic pellets are a poison," said Deanna Rushing of Extinction Rebellion Kentucky. "We can see for ourselves the unwillingness to clean up the pellet spills in Texas on the part of those responsible. Why should we believe Shell will be responsible? We know the cost of clean-up litigation is literally nothing to a company this size. Pennies on the dollar they spend before they start producing. The pellets are just visible evidence of the toxins that go in the water table. Since 2005, the fracking companies have not been mandated to disclose what goes into fracking solvents so we really don't know what is actually leaking from all these wells. The pipelines are poisonous to the environment just getting built, and the tree canopies that have come down are devastating for migrant birds and insect populations. This has to stop."

Food & Water Watch mobilizes regular people to build political power to move bold and uncompromised solutions to the most pressing food, water, and climate problems of our time. We work to protect people's health, communities, and democracy from the growing destructive power of the most powerful economic interests.

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