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Shell Faces Lawsuit Over Blatant Air Pollution Violations at Cracker Plant

Posted by John Donovan: 12 May 2023

Shell Faces Lawsuit Over Blatant Air Pollution Violations at Cracker Plant

Shell is being hit with a federal lawsuit for its relentless breaches of permitted air pollution limits at its ethane cracker plant in Beaver County. Attorneys from the Environmental Integrity Project and Clean Air Council have taken legal action against Shell, highlighting the company’s repeated disregard for air quality regulations.

According to the lawsuit filed with the U.S. District Court for Western Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection has issued a shocking twelve violation notices related to air quality since January 2022. Additionally, Shell has submitted nearly forty malfunction reports during that time, yet the state has failed to take any meaningful enforcement actions or impose penalties on the company.

The plaintiffs argue that the petrochemical complex’s excessive emission of harmful air contaminants like nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, and particulate matter is posing a severe threat to public health. These pollutants are wreaking havoc on the well-being of families in Beaver County and beyond.

Clean Air Council Executive Director Joseph Minott asserts, “The community will not tolerate dangerous pollution events that risk the health of families across Beaver County and beyond.” It is clear that Shell’s reckless actions are causing significant harm and must be held accountable.

The lawsuit highlights a recent incident where air monitors at the Potter Township facility detected elevated levels of benzene, a known carcinogen, following a malfunction at the site’s wastewater treatment plant. Shell reported a release of hydrocarbons during maintenance preparations, leading to foul odors, burning eyes, nausea, and respiratory issues reported by nearby residents. Rumors of a benzene spill further exacerbated concerns in the community, yet the company initially denied any significant release. Shockingly, it was later revealed that 300 pounds of benzene had indeed been released into the air.

Considering that Shell received a staggering $1.6 billion in taxpayer subsidies from the state to construct this plant, it is unfathomable that the company continues to flout the law. Sarah Kula, attorney for the Environmental Integrity Project, rightfully points out, “The very least this international corporation can do is to follow the law…”

The environmental groups are demanding that the court acknowledge Shell’s blatant violations of the Clean Air Act, the Pennsylvania Air Pollution Control Act, and its permit. They are urging for the immediate shutdown of the plant until it achieves compliance. Moreover, the lawsuit calls for substantial civil penalties against Shell, amounting to $117,468 per day, per violation of the Clean Air Act and $25,000 per day, per violation of the Pennsylvania Air Pollution Control Act.

Shell’s excuses for its emissions overages are feeble at best. The company had previously blamed high-pressure gas flaring during startup activities for exceeding emissions limits but later used questionable technology to revise its reports. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection rightfully questioned the validity of this unproven technology, warning Shell of potential violations.

The ethane cracker plant, initially hailed as a monumental project costing over $6 billion, has proven to be an environmental disaster. Despite the company’s assurances that it will address the issues, Shell CEO Wael Sawan admitted that the plant’s startup has been slower than expected. This delay is causing significant financial losses for the company, but Shell’s primary concern should be the health and well-being of the surrounding communities.

It is time for Shell Energy to face the consequences of its actions. This lawsuit is a crucial step towards holding the oil giant accountable for its repeated air pollution violations and prioritizing the health and safety of the people over corporate profits

Shell management has a track record of putting profits before safety, even of its own employees. Money before ethics. This is after all the company that financially supported Hitler. Google “Shell Nazi History”.

Shell is invited to point out for correction any factual inaccuracies and supply closing comments for publication as part of this article on an unedited basis. 

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