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Press Release: New Tool Tracks Petrochemical Incidents Across the United States

New Tool Tracks Petrochemical Incidents Across the United States

EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (February 1, 2024) – Beyond Petrochemicals is marking one year since the vinyl chloride spill in East Palestine, Ohio with a commitment to track petrochemical incidents like it across the United States. Today, the campaign launched www.SpillTracker.org, a new database of fires, flares, spills, and other petrochemical incidents, which occur on average every four days. 

Researchers from Beyond Petrochemicals will track media and government reports of incidents involving carcinogenic petrochemicals like vinyl chloride, ammonia, benzene, and butadiene. Updates will be published on the site weekly, demonstrating the danger these toxic chemicals pose. 

“From Southwest Louisiana to Eastern Ohio, too many families live in constant fear of the next emergency evacuation because a petrochemical is on fire in their neighborhood,” said Heather McTeer Toney, executive director of Beyond Petrochemicals. “Millions of families are at risk of these incidents occurring near them, meanwhile the industry wants to grow exponentially.” 

A new report from Toxic-Free Future estimates that more than 3 million people live along the 2,000 miles of track that transports 1.5 billion pounds of vinyl chloride every year, just one of many petrochemicals produced in the United States. 

“Last year’s derailment in East Palestine, Ohio taught us that you don’t have to see smokestacks from your backyard to be in danger,” added McTeer Toney.

Reporting published last year by the Coalition to Prevent Chemical Disasters shows that a chemical incident occurs in the United States nearly every day. Together, plastics and fertilizers account for more than 74 percent of the chemical sector’s products, keeping profits flowing for the fossil fuel industry.

The oil and gas industry is increasingly looking to the petrochemical sector as an opportunity to grow. Beyond Petrochemicals is launching www.SpillTracker.org to highlight the scope of petrochemicals’ threat to all people, especially those living near production facilities.

“We hope to shine a light on the dangers the petrochemical industry poses and ensure these incidents get the attention they deserve,” said McTeer Toney.

 Communities near industrial facilities are often exposed to multiple chemicals and other stressors simultaneously, exacerbating harmful health effects, like cancer, infertility, and Asthma. Data from the Environmental Protection Agency shows that industrial facilities that emit high-risk chemicals are often clustered together with other polluting facilities, further exposing nearby neighborhoods.

“These are not isolated incidents and are absolutely preventable,” said Jess Conard, East Palestine resident and Appalachia Director for Beyond Plastics. “Since last year’s spill and burn in my hometown I have met people from across the country affected by petrochemical disasters and this new tool is a way for everyone to see the extent of this problem. We are all tired of living with this reality and together we will hold the petrochemicals industry accountable.” 

The campaign will curate and highlight accounts of these incidents from its grassroots partners and others who have experienced them first-hand. Anyone who wants to contribute their story should post it via social media using #SpillTracker.  

Texas, Louisiana, and Ohio, where Beyond Petrochemicals is focused, and where significant petrochemical hubs are in operation, account for most of these incidents tracked over the last several years. Low-income areas and Black and brown communities often face disproportionate exposure to and health risks from pollution, including risks from pollution related to petrochemical facilities. 

“In Texas, Louisiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and beyond, our neighbors are going to the hospital and facing serious illness after prolonged exposure to not only the everyday pollution from the petrochemical industry but the frequent incidents caused by its production and transportation,” said McTeer Toney. “This industry cannot be allowed to expand and must take account for the damage it is causing.” 

You can take action today by telling the Environmental Protection Agency to ban the production of Vinyl Chloride.

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MEDIA CONTACT: Matt Smelser, matt@beyondpetrochemicals.org 

About Beyond Petrochemicals

Launched by Bloomberg Philanthropies in September 2022, Beyond Petrochemicals: People Over Pollution aims to halt the rapid expansion of petrochemical and plastic pollution in the United States. The campaign draws on the success of the Beyond Coal campaign, supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies, and Bloomberg’s Beyond Carbon campaign, to turbocharge existing efforts led by frontline communities to block the rapid expansion of 120+ petrochemical projects concentrated in three target geographies – Louisiana, Texas, and the Ohio River Valley. The campaign also works to establish stricter rules for existing petrochemical plants to safeguard the health of American communities. To date, Beyond Petrochemicals has helped raise awareness and lead timely collaboration efforts using its four pillars of community leadership, data and research, legislation and litigation, and stakeholder engagement to accelerate its goals. For more information, please visit us online and follow us on LinkedIn.