On February 3, 2023, a massive smoke plume darkened the sky when a Norfolk Southern train derailed near East Palestine, Ohio, spilling some of its toxic contents — including carcinogenic vinyl chloride — which were then intentionally set aflame. People living as far away as western Pennsylvania reported chemical smells and health issues. As the toxins spread into the land, air, and water, local residents had to fight for environmental monitoring, and officials are still only beginning to understand the impacts of this disaster.
The East Palestine disaster is not an isolated incident — it is one of dozens of such major occurrences so far in 2023. According to some estimates, the US is currently averaging a “chemical accident” in production and transportation every two days. Petrochemicals are largely made from fossil fuels, and they serve as the building blocks of many products, like plastics, pesticides, and fertilizers. In the US alone, there are plans for the construction of more than 120 new petrochemical plants, predominantly near communities of color and economically disadvantaged areas, particularly in the Gulf Coast and Appalachia. CIEL is proudly partnering to stop this buildout with groups like Beyond Petrochemicals, the People Over Petro and Permian Gulf Coast Coalitions, and the Break Free From Plastic movement.
We are also working to connect the dots to reveal a full picture of the harms to frontline communities. Together, we are exposing the human and environmental impacts of industrial addition to petrochemicals — especially how risky and toxic they are. Our campaigners are also building tools and resources with frontline communities to protect their rights and futures by halting this planned expansion in its tracks.