Rust Belt to Become New Plastics Belt and New Cancer Alley

According to a November 9 article in The Revelator, the petrochemical industry is poised to create a new Plastics Belt in America’s Rustbelt, specifically in Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New York. (

In the article, Revelator writer Sharon Kelly details how this development would negatively impact climate change.  But it would also create a new “cancer alley” in the Rust Belt.  And, according to Kelly, this is an overlooked aspect of shale development. 

Besides the creation of a new cancer alley, this kind of petrochemical expansion would lock in a huge addition to production of plastics worldwide.  The impacts on marine and terrestrial life and biodiversity would be devastating. The ocean is already choking on plastics. 

And, of course, this petrochemical expansion would increase the number of fracking operations.  In 2016, and E.P.A. study concluded that fracking has led to contamination of drinking water and poses continuing risks to America’s water supply.

Kelly cites one very shocking example of the scale and impact this petrochemical expansion would have:

Shell’s ethane “cracker” plant currently under construction in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, has permits to pump 2.25 million tons of CO2 equivalent per year into the air near Pittsburgh, roughly equal to pollution from 430,000 cars. 

Of course this will have a huge negative impact on global warming.  But along with this huge volume of CO2 will be other pollutants as well, many of them carcinogenic.  Hence the worry about a new cancer alley in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and New York.