Why the Green New Deal Matter to Us
By Rick Shrum
Observer-Reporter / Southwest PA
June 1, 2019 – Ned Ketyer, a Peters Township pediatrician, appreciated the five-hour excursion along the Ohio River.
“This tour has been a real eye-opener,” he said Friday afternoon. “Look out the window and what you see should be beautiful, should be pristine.
“You see areas that aren’t green. You see a lot of damaged roads and probably a lot of damaged lives for people brave enough to live there.”
Ketyer, a leader with the environmental support group Climate Reality Project and a board member of the Southwest Environmental Health Project, was lamenting what he regarded as casualties from heavy industry that still has a significant presence in the Ohio Valley. He was among a group of 30 who coursed through this part of the tri-state on a bus, glimpsing and stopping at industrial sites along a 100-mile stretch.
And the sites were many.
The tour was organized by the Pittsburgh and Southwestern Pennsylvania chapter of the Climate Realty Project; FracTracker Alliance; Breathe Project; and the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition.
Tour attendees discussed and listened to concerns related to natural gas processing, pipelines, emissions, pollution and – of course – cracker plants.
Many of their contentions, to be sure, conflict with statements by industry officials, such as fracking is usually done safely and greenhouse gas emissions have been cut dramatically. One natural gas producer recently established a goal of zero emissions.
Coalition members and supporters stated their case Friday.
The event began in Robinson Township, advanced to Beaver County, then navigated Ohio and West Virginia roadways that hugged the river south to Proctor, W.Va.
Twenty minutes into the tour, shortly after the bus crossed into Beaver County on Interstate 376, Karen Gdula picked up the microphone and talked about “my nightmare that became reality.”
She pointed to a barren hillside to the east where, last Sept. 10, the Revolution Pipeline burst following a landslide, sending flames aloft a short distance from the home where she grew up and which she now owns. One house and several garages and vehicles were destroyed.
“As a child, I had a nightmare that the woods behind my house were on fire,” Gdula said. “Then we had this fire in September. The flames were probably 300 feet high. It was very intense.”
Early in the journey, organizers passed along a jar containing polyethylene pellets, “the building block for plastics,” one said. These so-called “nurdles” are a vital product for the much-celebrated Pennsylvania Shell cracker plant that is under construction in Potter Township, Beaver County.
This type of facility processes ethane, a component of natural gas that is prevalent in the nearby Marcellus Shale, and processes – or “cracks” – it into ethylene.