Industry endangers Black community with toxic “natural” gas export facility

October 13, 2023


Gas Leaks


Residents in Chester, Pennsylvania already live with toxic air pollution from one of the country’s largest garbage incinerators, a sewage treatment plant, oil refineries, and other heavy industry. Now, the majority Black community faces even more health harms from the fossil fuel industry’s rush to cash in on “natural” gas exports.

While the Gulf Coast is seeing most of the new proposals for gas export facilities, industry executives are also eyeing new projects on the Atlantic Coast. According to reporting from WHYY, a company named Penn America Energy has been discussing the project with elected officials in Pennsylvania without any meaningful outreach to Chester residents directly impacted by the facility.

Gas export facilities are massive sources of toxic pollution

Gas export facilities process “natural” gas into a supercooled liquified form (LNG) so it can be shipped overseas. The energy-intensive process produces asthma-causing nitrogen oxides and cancer-linked toxins like benzene. LNG facilities routinely exceed their legal pollution limits — even newly built projects like Calcasieu Pass in Louisiana.

That alarmed Chester resident Zulene Mayfield, who founded Chester Residents Concerned for Quality Living to address pollution issues in the city. Mayfield had no idea the facility was being planned until a local reporter called to ask her for comment. Now Mayfield and her neighbors are fighting back, telling an industry-friendly state panel to keep LNG out of their community.

“My mother died of cancer, my brother died from cancer, my 15-year-old sister died from cancer,” Mayfield told Gas Leaks. “We are environmentally assaulted every day by the violence of the pollution that happens in my community.”


Gas buildout harms frontline communities

Pushing facilities in Black and low-income communities is par for the course for gas industry executives, who are desperate to make loads of profit selling methane gas overseas but notably never volunteer to live next to their polluting projects personally.

The industry is using Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to justify the construction of export facilities that would make countries around the world dependent on planet-warming methane gas for decades to come, crowding out the development of clean energy. 

Methane is a climate super-pollutant, more than 80 times as potent as carbon dioxide. The industry is pursuing the construction of 22 new LNG terminals. If constructed, they’ll produce as much total climate pollution as 440 coal plants, supercharging the climate crisis.

No matter what the industry says, gas exports aren’t a path to clean energy. From fracking wells to pipelines to export facilities to the foreign countries where it’s burned, “natural” gas releases pollution constantly. That’s bad news for the climate and even worse news for communities like Chester that are being sacrificed for the industry’s pursuit of profit.

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