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Shell’s cracker plant is off to a bad (and dangerous) start


Your Turn: Shell’s cracker plant is off to a bad (and dangerous) start

Joseph Minott  |  Special to The Times

19 March 2023

If the first three months of operations at Shell’s petrochemical plant are any indication, the next 30 years are going to be stressful and hazardous for nearby Beaver Country residents.

The community is locked into a lasting and significant source of plastics production and dirty air pollution that will degrade the Commonwealth’s air quality and our environmental legacy for decades to come. Shell clearly isn’t interested in operating safely or responsibly ― so it’s up to regulators and citizens to force them to get emissions in check.

The Shell Polymers Monaca plant in Potter Township officially began operations in November of last year. Even before opening day, the plant was already posing a threat to the surrounding community. From the very beginning, Shell has not managed to keep its pollution to safe and legal levels. It has set a terrible precedent for decades to come, and there’s no reason to expect Shell will act differently ― unless it’s forced to do so.

The Environmental Integrity Project and Clean Air Council are taking steps to force Shell to take their responsibility to residents and the environment seriously. Our organizations have filed a notice of intent to sue Shell for the consistent violation of air pollution limits.

In September 2022, the plant emitted 512 tons of volatile organic compounds, nearly reaching in that one month the 12-month permitted limit of its approved volatile organic compound emissions (516.2 tons in any consecutive 12-month period). These chemicals contribute to smog and can cause nausea, nerve damage and other health problems. Shell also emitted the dangerous pollutants nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide from sources at the plant in the final months of 2022 at rates that exceed permit limits.

It’s important to note that these limits were agreed upon by Shell and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) through an in-depth permitting process. The fact that Shell began violating them immediately underscores just how little regard its leaders have shown for the residents harmed by the massive facility.


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