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Shell’s Grandiose Failure: How the Cracker Plant Stunk Up Beaver County

Posted by John Donovan: 4 June 2024

Well, well, well. Look who’s back in the headlines: Shell, the benevolent oil overlord, gracing us with its latest triumph. Remember that glorious cracker plant in Beaver County that was supposed to shower us with jobs and economic bliss? Yeah, that one. Turns out, it’s more of an economic disaster and environmental nightmare. Bravo, Shell!

Shell promised a “minor environmental impact” – a cute understatement considering they’ve racked up $10 million in fines for air pollution violations. Ah, the sweet smell of success. Beaver residents get to enjoy this lovely aroma while watching the supposed economic boom fizzle into a depressing bust.

“It’s not good for the environment, and it definitely did not generate the jobs that areas that supported it did,” Barbara Leheny pointed out, clearly disappointed that their support for this miracle project was as misguided as believing in unicorns.

Remember those thousands of jobs? Poof! Gone like a fart in the wind. “I know what they promised,” says Brandon Verrico. “A lot of commercial buildings, a lot of jobs…and I haven’t really seen the development of the land.” Classic Shell – promising the world and delivering a plastic plant with a side of regret.

Shell’s grand courting of local governments, involving $1.6 billion in tax breaks and incentives, was supposed to transform the Ohio River Valley into a petrochemical utopia. And yet, here we are, with Beaver County’s job numbers at a century-low. That’s right, the cracker plant’s legacy is a ghost town with a tangy air freshener.

Sean O’Leary of the Ohio River Institute chimes in, “I don’t know of a single manufacturing facility that has arrived in the region, specifically in order to be near the cracker.” But hey, Shell did spend “millions and millions” locally and tossed some scraps to non-profits. So generous.

Shell even threw in a Robert Morris University study predicting 11,197 jobs and a billion-dollar labor income annually. Yet, according to the Ohio River Valley Institute’s report, “Pennsylvania’s Bad Bet: Why Shell Didn’t Save Appalachia With Plastics,” those jobs are as real as Bigfoot.

Charles Homan, of the Beaver County Partnership for Community and Economic Growth, graciously admits, “It hasn’t lived up to the hype and at least early expectations that everyone had.” Really, Charles? You don’t say.

But wait, there’s hope! Homan believes the plant could still produce jobs if local leadership steps up. Yes, blame the local leaders for not performing miracles to salvage Shell’s mess. As Homan puts it, “Our leadership either needs to change the culture of leadership in Beaver County or we need different leadership.” Or maybe, just maybe, we need fewer empty promises from corporate giants?

So here we are, with a stinking cracker plant, shattered economic dreams, and a lesson in corporate deception. Thanks, Shell, for the memorable experience. Bravo indeed.

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