Petrochemicals Not All They Are Cracked Up To Be

by Duane Nichols on May 6, 2014

Placards for Hazardous Materials

Petrochemicals will give W.Va. more harm than help

Opinion-Editorial by S. Tom Bond, Charleston Gazette, May 4, 2014

Tom Witt’s article “Petrochemicals can boost state” (March 23) is a fascinating picture of economics cut loose from reality. The reality includes real costs not mentioned in his article and serious morality issues.

One is global warming. If you don’t believe in it after the American Association for Advancement of Science, the world’s foremost scientific organization, the Royalty Society of the United Kingdom, NASA, and the U.S. Military have published strong statements that it is happening and it is caused by industrial man, you are in a class with people who believe in extraterrestrials, black helicopters and faith healing.

The amount of waste being produced is so great the EPA had to throw up its hands and exempt it from federal law. Ten barrels of waste for each barrel of oil or oil equivalent energy. If it had to be handled like other waste producers’ offcast it would not be economically feasible to do shale drilling. Landfills are overflowing, and so much liquid waste is pumped below the surface earthquakes are occurring in some places.

The industry doesn’t have to put up bonds sufficient to plug the wells. Judging by West Virginia history from the earlier gas and oil drilling and coal mining, operators will find a way to wiggle out of it, and the public will have to pay. If so, it will get done later when it is far more expensive. Maybe these deep holes in the earth will just be abandoned for all time.

Then there are the health effects. The shale drilling technology burst onto the scene without the usual “scale up” that attends most industrial processes. Health effects have never been studied by the industry. Now that it is going on a huge scale, there is a very large number of anecdotal reports, and the industry has public relations going at full scale, not to deny them, but to cover them up, and to make it difficult for scientists to do research on air, water and noise pollution. One organization in Pennsylvania has a list of over 5,100 health incidents. Numerous scientists are looking for access to make measurements and people to run tests on.

It is dangerous business. The industry has eight times the accident rates other industries have. Exploding pipelines and huge train wreck fires abound. Insurance companies pay for this. In some areas they are refusing to insure farms where fracking takes place, because they don’t want to be caught with property losses.

The public is exposed to constant boosterism advertising and public relations which neglects these matters. I suggest Dr. Witt’s op-ed is far short of the whole reality of shale drilling. It is a narrow vision that will help some West Virginians a little, out-of-state investors a lot, but hurt far more honest citizens than the number it will help. It will hurt farm, forest, game and fish, clean water, the retirement and tourist industry essentially forever.

These are all very real externalized costs.

>>> S. Thomas Bond, of Jane Lew, is a retired teacher with a Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry, a member of the Guardians of the West Fork and the Monongahela Area Watersheds Compact. <<<

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Ed Wrenn January 23, 2020 at 4:04 pm

I wanted to inform you of the following event since the title (which I thought of then realized that you had already used it) is similar to this post.

I am also involved in the group PASUP (Pittsburghers Against Single Use Plastic) which is trying to reduce consumption of single-use plastics which are mostly made from fossil fuels and are made from nurdles from cracker plants.

14th Ward Independent Democratic Club and

the Chatham University College Democrats

to hold the 2020 Barbara Daly Danko Political Forum:

“The Petrochemical Build-Out: Not What It’s Cracked Up To Be?”

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Doors Open 1:00 P.M Forum 1:30 P.M.

Eddy Theatre, Chatham University

Woodland Rd. Pittsburgh 15232


The 14th Ward Independent Democratic Club is pleased to announce that the Club’s Annual Meeting will host a panel discussion on Sunday, January 26th titled The Petrochemical Build-Out: Not What It’s Cracked Up To Be? The speakers will be Dr. Erin N. Mayfield and Dr. Patricia M. DeMarco, who have both received distinguished awards for their research.

On December 8, 2019, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette featured as its front-page story the article: “Study: Shale gas job gains don’t offset the damage done: CMU Study finds build-out causes early deaths, affects environment.“ The 14th Ward Independent Democratic Club has invited the authors of the Carnegie Mellon University report to share their findings with the community. Recent analysis has indicated that the proposed building of additional cracker plants in Western Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia may have serious environmental and economic consequences. With regard to the City of Pittsburgh alone, Mayor Bill Peduto in a Public Source interview said “there was no meeting that occurred that shifted our economic future away from the growing eds and meds to cracker plants . . . but that’s what happened.”

Erin N. Mayfield, Ph.D. is the lead author of the CMU Report. Dr. Mayfield completed her doctorate at CMU and is now with the Princeton Environmental Institute – Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment.

Patricia M. DeMarco, Ph.D. is Resident Scholar at Chatham University, and is the author of the recently published Pathways to Our Sustainable Future: A Global Perspective from Pittsburgh. She will be available to sign copies after the Danko Forum.

The Barbara Daly Danko Political Forum is named after the late Allegheny County Council Member Barbara Daly Danko. Ms. Danko, a longtime member of the 14th Ward Democratic Committee and 14th Ward Independent Democratic Club, served as the Chair of the 14th Ward Democratic Committee from 2006 until 2012, and served on Allegheny County Council representing the 11th District. The Danko Political Forum provides a venue for candidate debates and discussion of important public policy issues affecting the 14th Ward and the City of Pittsburgh.

This year’s Danko Forum is intended to draw more attention to the trade-offs between the impacts, costs, and stated benefits of fossil fuel development and the expansion of the petrochemical industry in the region. Attendees are encouraged to bring their questions to help clarify the actual community consensus on these trade-offs and, if there is significant divergence from this consensus and current developments, discuss a political response.

The 2020 Danko Forum is co-sponsored by the 14th Ward Independent Democratic Club, the Chatham University College Democrats and the 14th Ward Democratic Committee.

The event is free and open to the public. Free parking is available in the lots off Murray Hill Avenue.


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