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Marcellus and Manufacturing conference draws People Over Petro protestors

MORGANTOWN — As the gas industry celebrated its progress inside the Marriott at Waterfront Place, outside by the rail-trail close to 40 people assembled to protest the expansion of the plastics industry.

They called themselves People Over Petro, and the three-hour protest was coordinated by the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition.

OVEC Project Coordinator Dustin White told the group, “They scream jobs and like a carrot on a stick, and politicians chase them.” Out-of-state and out-of-country companies come to capitalize on West Virginia’s people. They minimize the health impacts, such as cancers and neurodevelopmental defects.

There’s an aspect of futility in developing the industry here, he said, because 40 percent of plastics are single use. “Where is the market?”

He led the group in a short chant, “No more toxic jobs in Appalachia!”

Protestors carried a variety of signs: “People and environment over plastic”; “People before pipelines”; “End death by plastic”; “The Ohio River is not a sacrifice zone.”

One protestor in a red parrot costume carried a colorful sigh: “Poly doesn’t want a cracker.”

B.J. McManara spoke at length about petrochemical plant pollution and possible health effects. “We are here as water protectors, protectors of the future for the next seven generations.”

The balancing act of health and environmental concerns versus the reality of daily living was evident: One protestor carried a plastic-bodied camera, carried her notes on a plastic clipboard and stored her goods in a synthetic-fiber backpack. Other protestors wore plastic-frame eyeglasses and synthetic shoes and carried plastic cell phones.

Ethan Cade is a WVU student and member of the WVU Sierra Student Coalition. “The young people of West Virginia are tired of the big corporations pillaging our state,” he said. They have no concern for West Virginia or its people. They come, pollute the land and make people sick “for a quick buck.”

Following the organized speaking portion of the protest, the group moved to the front of the hotel to make its presence known to passersby.

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