Local Residents Act to Hold Federal Agency Accountable

Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition

Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition
Press Release

View this Press Release Online  —  Sep 22, 2020

September 22, 2020

For Immediate Release

Contact: Robin Blakeman, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition Project Coordinator robin@ohvec.org

 

Local Residents Act to Hold Federal Agency Accountable

Local Residents Rally Around the Ohio River

 

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. Regional residents are pushing back against efforts to permit barge terminals to offload oil and gas waste shipped on the Ohio River. On September 23, Huntington residents Robin Blakeman, Carolyn Sayles and Sarah Carballo will deliver the transcripts of a “People’s Hearing” to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) office in Huntington. This action was necessitated by what many participants in a USACE meeting on the subject referred to as “the most confusing, poorly noticed, and improperly managed” public meeting they have ever attended by a state or national regulatory agency.

In March and April of this year, at the same time that Ohio took decisive measures to flatten the curve and reduce the spread of COVID-19 with stay at home orders, the USACE posted three barge permit applications on their website. Local communities were caught off guard by these permit notices because they were not posted in local newspapers as required for some state permits.

“We know we can’t trust polluting corporations to be honest with us about their plans for these dangerous facilities, but it’s a shame that our own government would try and slide this project past us,” said Shelly Corbin, Senior Campaign Representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign. “The Army Corps is legally required to follow a very deliberate process for soliciting public input on these polluting projects, and they simply failed to do that here,” Corbin added.

Alarmed local residents requested additional information about the permits and urged the agency to hold a public hearing to voice their concerns and get answers to their questions. The USACE scheduled a virtual public meeting for just one of the permits, Deep Rock Solutions, LLC on Friday, August 7, at 6 p.m. Many who registered to attend never received information on how to join the virtual meeting. On the day the meeting was scheduled the USACE also changed the time, moving it up an hour to 5 p.m., and the process deteriorated from there. 

“It was clear that I was not the only one frustrated and disappointed by the procedure of the meeting,” said George Banzinger, a Marietta resident and member of the Green Sanctuary community. “I was not able to get on WebEx, the virtual platform. I put in the code to pose a question but was never called on. We appreciate the USACE holding this virtual meeting, but I think that it is the least that they could do since the comment period occurred at the height of the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic, and since no public notice was published in the Marietta Times about the project.”

In response to the virtual debacle, groups and local residents held a “People’s Hearing”, to provide a space for community members to voice their concerns. 

Robin Blakeman, a project coordinator with the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition said, “Here in the Huntington area, we are downstream of all three of the oil and gas waste barge facilities being considered for permitting by USACE. Since the Ohio River is Huntington’s sole source of tap water, and the source of tap water for 5 million people in our region, it is imperative that the USACE do a cumulative impact study of all three of these facilities before permitting or allowing to start operations of any of them. We are especially concerned about the Deep Rock facility, due to its proximity to an already highly polluted area.”

Eric Engle, chairman of Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action said, “Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action is deeply concerned that the US Army Corps of Engineers is not allowing enough public input during a process where USACE is considering allowing a company to barge radioactive, carcinogenic waste up the Ohio River and deposit it in Southeast Ohio. And MOVCA would like to stress that we are not taking just a ‘not in my backyard stance; we don’t want this waste anywhere! We want to put a stop to fracking and help lead in a just transition from all fossil fuels!”

Transcripts of the “People’s Hearing” will be received by the Huntington District Corps of Engineers at 502 Eighth Street, Huntington, WV 25701 on Wednesday, September 23 at 1:30 p.m., including a statement with the comments and concerns of local residents.  

 

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Updated: Sep 22, 2020 — 2:38 pm

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