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Environmentalist say “no” to Nacero

KAREN ELIAS

Lock Haven

A coalition of environmental groups from across Pennsylvania is raising warning flags about a huge industrial refinery being planned for Luzerne County.

The company behind the $6 billion refinery, Nacero, which is based in Texas, has not yet succeeded in constructing any of the nine plants it has set out to build. In addition, it intends to use as-yet-unproven technology in its production of gasoline.

The Clean Air Council, a member of the coalition, has obtained air permit documents for Nacero’s similarly proposed facility in Texas. Based on these documents, the council states that the Luzerne County refinery would become the third-worst climate pollution emitter in the state. It would also be among the top emitters of other harmful pollutants.

Plans for the refinery place it in a residential area close to an elementary school.

We see happening here many of the same tactics being used in other parts of Pennsylvania to try to “sell” industries requiring the continued use of fossil fuels to unsuspecting rural communities. Touting jobs and economic revitalization, these industries move into areas that are struggling economically, bringing with them industrial blight, noise, harmful air pollution, health problems (including rising costs), possible water contamination, reduced property values, and degradation of quality of life.

These companies often work closely with legislators to obtain behind-the-scenes financing — as has been the case with Nacero — putting in place needed support without soliciting public input or engagement. Before the community has had an opportunity to weigh possible benefits against probable harms, the project is presented after the fact as a nearly-foregone conclusion.

The Express recently featured two articles on its climate page. One was titled “Earth Hits 6th Warmest Year on Record,” and the other “Deadly Extreme Weather Year for U.S. as Carbon Emissions Soar.”

At a time when the world’s top scientists, as well as regional, national and international agencies, are warning that we cannot continue doing business as usual if we want to avoid the worst effects of climate change, the fossil fuel industry is doubling down. The industry is currently spending billions of dollars on greenwashing PR to convince us that their products are environmentally friendly, offering false climate solutions in an effort to keep themselves in business.

Nacero’s plan to use what it calls “renewable natural gas” to produce gasoline is the latest of these greenwashing ploys. In fact, both its process and its product will require the burning of gases (primarily methane) that will delay our transition to electric vehicles and hurt our climate by releasing harmful pollutants into the air.

Pennsylvania’s environmental community is rightly concerned that the proposed Nacero refinery in Luzerne County is next in an aggressive wave of new proposals for fracked gas-related projects marketed as “good for the climate,” projects that ultimately turn out to be anything but.

I stand with other environmentalists in asking for safe, long-term, good-paying jobs for Pennsylvania’s workers that will protect the health and safety of our communities and our environment.

We shouldn’t have to make a choice between our lives and our livelihoods.

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