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Shell’s Generosity: Funding Air Monitors to Track Their Own Pollution

Posted 7 June 2024 by John Donovan

Pennsylvania Shell ethylene cracker plant

In a stunning display of corporate altruism, Shell, the benevolent oil giant known for its tender care of the environment, has graciously agreed to part with over $630,000. This sum, a mere trifle from the $10 million in penalties they’ve amassed, will be used by environmental watchdog groups to install five real-time air monitors throughout Beaver County. Because, you know, it’s easier just to keep track of how much pollution you’re breathing in rather than stop polluting.

The Beaver County Marcellus Awareness Community (BCMAC) is partnering with the Environmental Health Project to deploy these monitors. According to a Monday news release, the goal is to “analyze, visualize and interpret the data collected from these monitors to help community members understand where the air pollution is coming from and what health outcomes they may expect.” Translation: “Let’s help you pinpoint exactly how Shell’s pollution is killing you.”

BCMAC will also “provide community education about air pollution and the health impacts associated with exposure to emissions from petrochemical facilities.” This initiative stems from activists’ long-standing demand for increased monitoring near Shell’s ethane cracker plant, which started operations in late 2022. Ah yes, education – because knowing you’re being poisoned is half the battle.

This project is just one of 21 noble initiatives that will benefit from Shell’s $10 million slap-on-the-wrist penalty. The funds were established following a consent order with Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to address months of air pollution exceedances at the petrochemical plant. Shell’s offences included exceeding air pollution limits, unexpected gas flaring, and, of course, delightful malodors.

Since the order was signed last year, Shell has generously submitted more than two dozen malfunction reports and received four air quality violation notices. This pattern of behaviour is truly heartwarming and demonstrates Shell’s unwavering commitment to maintaining the status quo of environmental degradation.

Shell’s penalties include a $4.9 million civil fine to the DEP and another $5 million to create a fund for projects that ostensibly benefit the environment, health, and quality of life of Beaver Countians. The Pittsburgh Foundation Board of Directors will oversee the distribution of these funds. Hilary Starcher-O’Toole, BCMAC’s executive director, lamented, “It’s a shame these funds have to be awarded at all but we are committed to making sure we use them wisely to protect our community members.”

The project will also collaborate with the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health and Physicians for Social Responsibility Pennsylvania. James Fabisiak, director of the School’s Center for Healthy Environments and Communities, expressed enthusiasm, stating, “We look forward to working with BCMAC in their commitment to elevating environmental and public health in Beaver County using a genuine community-engaged approach.”

So, there you have it. Shell, ever the paragon of corporate responsibility, continues to make amends by funding projects that help communities understand just how much damage is being inflicted upon them. Cheers to Shell for this ironic gesture of goodwill

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