MONACA, Pa.― President Donald Trump’s visit today to a massive plastics plant being built in Pennsylvania by Royal Dutch Shell ignores the plastic pollution and toxic chemicals such plants are allowed to release under decades-old federal regulations. Local groups protested today’s visit and the petrochemical industry’s plan to increase U.S. plastic production using the oversupply of fracked natural gas.
A coalition of nearly 300 community and conservation organizations last month filed a legal petition demanding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency adopt strict new water-pollution limits for industrial plants that create plastic. Plastic plants discharged 128 million pounds of pollutants into U.S. waterways last year, their operators reported to the EPA.
“Trump is ignoring the dangers of making mountains of new plastic,” said Emily Jeffers, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, which authored the EPA petition. “This plant will pollute Pennsylvania communities and worsen the ocean plastic pollution crisis. It’s appalling how this administration celebrates polluters and fails to regulate them. Trump’s legacy will be climate chaos, mass extinction, and oceans filled with plastic.”
As reported by The New York Times this week, Shell’s Monaca plant would produce more than million tons of plastic pellets each year, much of which will end up in single-use plastic packaging. It noted that plastic pollution permeates our oceans, wildlife, beaches and even tap water and raised concerns about adding even more.
"We ask that you stop ongoing efforts to subsidize the petrochemical industry with billions of dollars of public money and loan guarantees that drain the life out of our communities,” Matt Mehalik, executive director of the Breathe Project, a coalition of 34 organizations working to clean up air quality in Southwestern Pennsylvania, wrote in a letter to Trump. "We would rather see such support go to jobs and projects that promote health, extend lives, and support the whole community. We know that through innovation, we can create jobs, clean up our communities, and protect our health.”
The coalition’s EPA petition calls for a total ban on the discharge of plastic pollution and detectable levels of the most dangerous toxic pollutants, including dioxin and benzene. Federal pollution regulations adopted in the 1980s and early 1990s fail to consider new pollutant detection and treatment technologies that can reduce the harms of ocean plastic pollution and toxic pollutant discharge from plastic manufacture.
An estimated 8 million tons of plastic enters our oceans every year, and it’s expected to outweigh all the fish in the sea by 2050. Environmental pollutants adhere to plastic as it travels through the ocean. If ingested those contaminated plastics can sicken marine life — and people who eat contaminated seafood. Plastics can also choke and entangle marine life, including sea turtles and whales.