Advocates worry about environmental cost of new Shell cracker plant in Beaver County

BEAVER COUNTY, Pa. — After years of planning and construction, the Shell ethane cracker plant in Beaver County is operational.

The news came as a surprise to some. The company made the announcement on its Facebook page Tuesday morning.

RELATED >>> Operations underway at Shell cracker plant in Beaver County after near decade of construction

“I was shocked [...] We weren’t ready,” Bob Schmetzer said. He’s a member of the environmental group “Eyes on Shell.”

He tells Channel 11 he was in a meeting with county emergency management and two commissioners just after hearing the news.

“I said, ‘Are you guys aware the cracker plant opened up today?’ They said ‘no.’”

Schmetzer and others in Beaver County and the surrounding area have worked to prevent the plant’s opening. Now that it’s operational, his main concern is monitoring air pollution.

“It doesn’t really matter if all these air pollutants coming out of the cracker plant are blowing toward Pittsburgh or Ohio, it seems like we’re caught in the middle,” Schmetzer said.

“It’s a world-class facility and it’s being developed under world-class regulations,” David Callahan, President of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, said.

He highlighted the plant’s six hundred full-time jobs and other economic opportunities but acknowledged environmental concerns.

“What we can do is share good, fact-based information; share with them the data and facts and stats that help encourage their interest in the plant from an economic and environmental perspective,” Callahan said.

An independent report from the Robert Morris University suggests economic activity from the facility could amount to around $3.7 billion each year statewide, include $31 million in local and state tax coffers.

“Yes, we like the jobs. But our health and well-being is much more important,” Schmetzer said.

This was the post on the “Shell Pennsylvania Chemicals” Facebook page announcing the opening:

A message from Hilary Mercer – Senior Vice President, Shell Polymers:

“I am extraordinarily proud to announce that operations have commenced at Shell Polymers Monaca (SPM).

This plant is the largest investment in Pennsylvania since the mid-century and one of the largest of its kind in North America. The facility is expected to produce approximately 1.6 million tonnes of polyethylene annually. Shell Polymers’ customers will use our polyethylene to create products that we see and use every day – consumer packaging, pipe, conduit, and many more lifestyle solutions.

This moment has been years in the making since we took the Final Investment Decision (FID) in June 2016. Safely constructing and commissioning this world-class facility is a special and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and we couldn’t have done it without a truly collaborative approach between teams around the globe and the support of the community. I’d like to thank our staff, contractors, the building trades, our Beaver County neighbors, as well as state and local officials.

Congratulations to the teams and thank you for all that you’ve done, and will do, as our journey continues.”

Click here for more on the “Eyes on Shell” watchdog group.

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