By Jared Stonesifer [email protected]: 8 Dec 2016
POTTER TWP. — A petition with more than 750 signatures was presented to the township supervisors Wednesday night concerning objections to several aspects of Shell Chemicals’ ethane cracker plant project.
The move came one week before the Potter supervisors are set to vote on Shell’s conditional use application for the $6 billion project. The supervisors must approve the 200-page document before Shell is authorized to start construction on the plant, although construction isn’t expected until the end of next year.
Several issues and objections were included in the petitions submitted Wednesday, but perhaps the most prominent issue was fence-line monitoring at the Shell site.
Fence-line monitoring is used to ensure that any gasses or contaminants seeping out from the cracker plant’s boundaries remain at acceptable levels.
Those in attendance said Shell hasn’t committed to fence-line monitoring, although a Shell spokesman said earlier Wednesday the company is open to the idea.
Shell will deploy “comprehensive continuous emission monitoring and leak detection systems” at the plant, and four air monitors have been installed by the state Department of Environmental Protection in “close proximity” to the cracker site, said spokesman Michael Marr.
“Although fence-line monitoring is not required under the law, Shell is agreeable and has been agreeable to fence-line monitoring,” he said.
Marr went on to say the company treats environmental issues “with paramount importance,” adding that many of the plant’s employees will live in surrounding communities and care about the impacts of the plant.
Marr also spoke against protesters, including two women who traveled from Louisiana last week to talk about their experience living near a Shell plant.
“Sadly, these project opponents have employed a number of tactics, including bringing in professional protesters from Louisiana to sow fear and mistrust in the community by saying things which are categorically untrue,” he said.
For instance, Marr said false claims are put forth by some protesters about obnoxious odors or damage to property as a result of the cracker.
Shell has instead already provided many benefits to the community, he said, including paying most of the $70 million cost for the Center Township Water Authority to build a new treatment plant and water intake system.
Marr said Shell is also installing LED lighting at the plant in an effort to reduce glare and visibility for nearby communities, even though LED lighting is more expensive than conventional lighting.
“Shell is committed to operate with the utmost integrity and respect for our neighbors and we believe the community has seen and will see that Shell’s actions have gone beyond requirements in appropriate situations,” he said.
Those in attendance at Potter’s municipal building Wednesday night said they’re calling for stricter environmental controls at the plant, as well as more transparency from Shell and Potter Township.
The 752 signatures on the petition contained names from around Beaver County, including 50 people from Potter Township.
Center Township resident John Leonard addressed those gathered prior to the meeting outside the municipal building. He said he believes Shell is not telling the community the entire truth surrounding the cracker project.
“They’re not on our side, folks,” he said.
Documentary filmmaker Michael DiLauro of Beaver said the plant will produce “unbearable odors” that will make living near the site impossible, a point disputed by Shell.
He also said the entire process surrounding the permitting process was not transparent enough.
The three Potter supervisors listened to several short comments from those in attendance, but didn’t engage in any in-depth discussion with them.
Wednesday night’s meeting was a only work session for the supervisors, and they said they look forward to an open and transparent dialogue with citizens during a public hearing at 3 p.m. Tuesday at the municipal building.
That public hearing is designed to solicit input regarding the approval of Shell’s conditional use application. The supervisors will vote on the application after the public hearing.