Plastics and Petrochemicals: How They Affect You and the Environment

The Resident Expert

At the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020, thanks to grants from the Center for Health, Environment & Justice and The Story of Stuff, OVEC super volunteer Dr. Randi Pokladnik conducted a series of workshops at community meetings in and around the Ohio River Valley.

Randi’s “Plastics and Petrochemicals: How They Affect You and the Environment’” workshops looked at plastics and human heath, alternatives to plastic production, and the Appalachian Storage Hub’s connection to plastics. In these presentations (versions of which you can register to see right here) she delved into ways you can organize to stop the proposed petrochemical/plastic build out in our region and demand that economic development start with the premise that clean water and clean air are central to our future prosperity. 

In early 2020, Randi, an environmental scientist, research chemist, teacher, and columnist, had conducted three in-person workshops, including one hosted by Oberlin College and attended by more than 300 people. Then, the pandemic.

Not to worry! Randi and OVEC’s Sarah Carballo have worked to keep Randi’s momentum and continue sharing her knowledge about ASH, plastics, and the environment.

The Appalachian Storage Hub and You

Because of the abundance of “cheap” feedstocks to manufacture plastics (using ethane from fracking), investors and the politicians they influence are targeting the Upper Ohio Valley as the next petrochemical plastics hub of the USA. The benign moniker for this proposed massive buildout of petrochemicals/plastics infrastructure is the Appalachian Storage Hub (ASH). It would involve an enormous regional increase in high pressure hydraulic fracturing, the construction of several petrochemical factories, pipelines to feed the plants, and underground storage of fracked gas liquids. The proposed infrastructure would impact communities along the Ohio River from Pittsburgh, PA into Kentucky, and up the Kanawha River from its confluence with the Ohio in Point Pleasant, WV to Charleston, WV.

Because the Trump Department of Energy got involved in the process of trying to promote this proposed petrochemical buildout here, many mistakenly have the impression that this is about energy, and do not know it is actually about the creation of plastics, especially single-use plastics. 

Few of us living in the region know much about the health impacts of plastics manufacturing and how exposures to chemicals such as plasticizers and petroleum-based compounds would negatively impact our health. Even fewer of us are aware of the connection between increased plastics production and increased infrastructure such as fracking wellheads, processing factories such as cracker plants and fractionators, pipelines, and underground storage facilities.

With the fossil fuel industry, many politicians, and even much of the local media attempting to control the narrative around this topic, there’s little doubt why many us of lack the information we need to confront this industry and the politicians beholden to it. This is especially true when they’re touting jobs and economic development while refusing to address the downside and dangers of this massive petrochemical buildout.

Hence, Randi’s “Plastics and Petrochemicals: How They Affect You and the Environment’” workshops.

Get Involved

You can watch recordings of three of Randi’s presentations online by registering here. If you have questions as you watch the presentations, post them below and OVEC staff will find the answers or escalate your question to someone who can.

If you’d like to speak with an OVEC organizer about joining our efforts to build a better future for our region by thwarting the petrochemical industry’s lust for our water, our resources, and our health, e-mail us at

And if you want to dig deeper, just ask us. We can offer live interactive presentations and trainings on how to speak with your government representatives, how to write letters to the editor, how to give your own presentations, and more. Right now we can’t be out hosting community meetings, so let us bring trainings and events to you.  

Watch Randi’s videos here by registering here, post your questions below, and please do reach out to about next steps.

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