Shell Cracker during the heavy construction phase in March 2019 on Ohio River in Beaver County, Pennsylvania

Environmental groups preparing for production at Shell’s cracker plant

From Mike Jones, Herald Star, Steubenville, OH, September 30, 2022

Monaca, PA ~ Environmental groups are mobilizing to monitor air and water quality around Royal Dutch Shell’s soon-to-open petrochemical cracker plant in Beaver County.

Several groups held a joint video conference Tuesday night that attracted more than 200 people who listened how various organizations have already begun testing air and water samples to set a baseline before the plant along the Ohio River near Monaca officially opens later this year.

While most people knew little about Marcellus Shale when the natural gas drilling boom began in Western Pennsylvania and the Tri-State Area in the late 2000s, Environmental Health Project Executive Director Alison Steele said groups like hers are working to educate the public on what to expect from the cracker plant.

She said various environmental groups have positioned numerous air and water monitoring stations around Beaver County, while Shell is required to monitor and share results from four sites at the plant and 20 around the property. The Peters Township-based group has also produced baseline testing results from a “monitoring network” to see if there are changes to the environment when the plant is operating. Steele said the group is pushing for accountability and trying to get comprehensive health policies from state regulators so residents aren’t the ones “fighting the fight.”

Steele also walked the 225 participants on the video conference through a brief history of the plant in which Pennsylvania’s state government offered a $1.6 billion tax incentive to Shell to build the plant here in exchange for 600 ongoing jobs. Construction on the plant began in November 2017 on the 340-acre property in Potter Township that was formerly a zinc smelter plant.

Heather Hulton VanTassel, the executive director of Three Rivers Waterkeeper, said her group has already seen evidence that the plant is starting some production, as they have found plastic “nurdles” in the river. Nurdles are produced at the plant and then shipped across the country for manufacturers to create various plastic products. Those little pellets can be ingested by wildlife or hold dangerous chemicals that can be released into the environment, she said.

She said they’re currently working in the area on boat patrols to find nurdles and have baseline water quality readings that will allow them to know if there are problems when the plant is fully operational. She said the environmental organization will continue monitoring water quality in the Ohio River and around its watershed to make sure there are no harmful chemicals being discharged that could endanger humans or wildlife.

She added that the environmental organizations monitoring the air and water quality don’t want that area of Beaver County to become a “sacrifice zone” for industry. “We’re here to monitor water,” she said. “And we’re going to work hard so we don’t turn into that place. … “We’re putting pressure on DEP (Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection) to hold them accountable.”

The specific date on which the plant will begin official operations was not immediately known.

The hour-long virtual meeting was organized by Beyond Plastics and began with a bit of breaking news, as Judith Enck, president of Vermont-based environmental group, announced that a “side deal” negotiated by U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin to cut bureaucratic red tape with new energy-related projects had stalled. Manchin, D-W.Va., had reached a tentative deal with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., in order to support the federal Inflation Reduction Act this summer. However, the deal had received tepid support from Democrats and Republicans, dooming the initiative.

Alexis Goldsmith, the national organizing director for Beyond Plastics, said environmental groups played a critical role in opposing the legislation and were one of the reasons “why the side deal with Manchin has not gone through.” She pointed to that “tenacious response” as an example of what local groups are doing to protect the environment for the community living around the Shell cracker plant.

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1. PA Permit Violation Issued to THE PRODUCTION CO LLC in Luzerne Twp, Fayette County
Description: Environmental Health & Safety violation issued on 9/16/2022 to THE PRODUCTION CO LLC in Luzerne Twp, Fayette county. 78.86 – CASING AND CEMENTING – DEFECTIVE CASING OR CEMENTING – Operator failed to report defect in a well that has defective, insufficient or improperly cemented casing to the Department within 24 hours of discovery. Operator failed to correct defect or failed to submit a plan to correct the defect for approval by the Department within 30 days.
Incident Date/Time: 2022-09-16 00:00:00
Tags: PADEP, frack, violation, drilling

2. PA Permit Violation Issued to THE PRODUCTION CO LLC in Luzerne Twp, Fayette County
Description: Administrative violation issued on 9/16/2022 to THE PRODUCTION CO LLC in Luzerne Twp, Fayette county. 78.88(e) – OPERATING WELLS – MECHANICAL INTEGRITY OF OPERATING WELLS – Operator failed to submit an annual report to the Department identifying the compliance status of each well with the mechanical integrity requirements for structurally sound wells in compliance with 25 Pa. Code Section 78.73(c).
Incident Date/Time: 2022-09-16 00:00:00
Tags: PADEP, frack, violation, drilling

3. PA Permit Violation Issued to THE PRODUCTION CO LLC in Luzerne Twp, Fayette County
Description: Administrative violation issued on 9/16/2022 to THE PRODUCTION CO LLC in Luzerne Twp, Fayette county. OGA3211(G) – WELL PERMITS – POSTING – Failure to post the well permit number and the operator’s name, address and phone number at the well site during construction of the access road, site preparation and during drilling, operating or alteration of well.
Incident Date/Time: 2022-09-16 00:00:00
Tags: PADEP, frack, violation, drilling

4. PA Permit Violation Issued to DIVERSIFIED PROD LLC in Cumberland Twp, Greene County
Description: Environmental Health & Safety violation issued on 9/16/2022 to DIVERSIFIED PROD LLC in Cumberland Twp, Greene county. 78.57(a) – CONTROL, STORAGE AND DISPOSAL OF PRODUCTION FLUIDS – Operator failed to collect the brine and other fluids produced during operation, service and plugging of the well in a tank, pit or a series of pits or tanks, or other device approved by the Department or Operator discharged brine or other fluids on or into the ground or into waters of the Commonwealth.
Incident Date/Time: 2022-09-16 00:00:00
Tags: PADEP, frack, violation, drilling

5. PA Permit Violation Issued to THE PRODUCTION CO LLC in Luzerne Twp, Fayette County
Description: Administrative violation issued on 9/16/2022 to THE PRODUCTION CO LLC in Luzerne Twp, Fayette county. OGA3211(G) – WELL PERMITS – POSTING – Failure to post the well permit number and the operator’s name, address and phone number at the well site during construction of the access road, site preparation and during drilling, operating or alteration of well.
Incident Date/Time: 2022-09-16 00:00:00
Tags: PADEP, frack, violation, drilling

6. PA Permit Violation Issued to THE PRODUCTION CO LLC in Luzerne Twp, Fayette County
Description: Environmental Health & Safety violation issued on 9/16/2022 to THE PRODUCTION CO LLC in Luzerne Twp, Fayette county. 78.88(b)1-4 – OPERATING WELLS – MECHANICAL INTEGRITY OF OPERATING WELLS – Operator failed to meet minimum requirements for inspections to determine compliance with the well construction and operating requirements.
Incident Date/Time: 2022-09-16 00:00:00
Tags: PADEP, frack, violation, drilling

7. PA Permit Violation Issued to THE PRODUCTION CO LLC in Luzerne Twp, Fayette County
Description: Administrative violation issued on 9/16/2022 to THE PRODUCTION CO LLC in Luzerne Twp, Fayette county. 78.88(e) – OPERATING WELLS – MECHANICAL INTEGRITY OF OPERATING WELLS – Operator failed to submit an annual report to the Department identifying the compliance status of each well with the mechanical integrity requirements for structurally sound wells in compliance with 25 Pa. Code Section 78.73(c).
Incident Date/Time: 2022-09-16 00:00:00
Tags: PADEP, frack, violation, drilling

8. PA Permit Violation Issued to THE PRODUCTION CO LLC in Luzerne Twp, Fayette County
Description: Environmental Health & Safety violation issued on 9/16/2022 to THE PRODUCTION CO LLC in Luzerne Twp, Fayette county. 78.88(d) – OPERATING WELLS – MECHANICAL INTEGRITY OF OPERATING WELLS – Operator failed to immediately notify the Department and take corrective actions to repair or replace defective equipment or casing for wells exhibiting progressive corrosion, rusting or other signs of equipment deterioration that compromise the integrity of the well.
Incident Date/Time: 2022-09-16 00:00:00
Tags: PADEP, frack, violation, drilling

9. PA Permit Violation Issued to THE PRODUCTION CO LLC in Luzerne Twp, Fayette County
Description: Environmental Health & Safety violation issued on 9/16/2022 to THE PRODUCTION CO LLC in Luzerne Twp, Fayette county. 78.88(D)_ – OPERATING WELLS – MECHANICAL INTEGRITY OF OPERATING WELLS – Operator failed to immediately notify the Department and follow required hierarchy for corrective actions to mitigate excess pressure on the surface casing seat or coal protective casing seat for wells not in compliance with 25 Pa. Code § 78.73(c).
Incident Date/Time: 2022-09-16 00:00:00
Tags: PADEP, frack, violation, drilling

10. PA Permit Violation Issued to THE PRODUCTION CO LLC in Luzerne Twp, Fayette County
Description: Environmental Health & Safety violation issued on 9/16/2022 to THE PRODUCTION CO LLC in Luzerne Twp, Fayette county. 78.73(a) – GENERAL PROVISION FOR WELL CONSTRUCTION AND OPERATION – Operator failed to construct and operate the well in accordance with 25 Pa. Code Chapter 78 and ensure that the integrity of the well is maintained and health, safety, environment and property are protected.
Incident Date/Time: 2022-09-16 00:00:00
Tags: PADEP, frack, violation, drilling

11. PA Permit Violation Issued to THE PRODUCTION CO LLC in Luzerne Twp, Fayette County
Description: Administrative violation issued on 9/16/2022 to THE PRODUCTION CO LLC in Luzerne Twp, Fayette county. OGA3211(G) – WELL PERMITS – POSTING – Failure to post the well permit number and the operator’s name, address and phone number at the well site during construction of the access road, site preparation and during drilling, operating or alteration of well.
Incident Date/Time: 2022-09-16 00:00:00
Tags: PADEP, frack, violation, drilling

12. PA Permit Violation Issued to THE PRODUCTION CO LLC in Luzerne Twp, Fayette County
Description: Administrative violation issued on 9/16/2022 to THE PRODUCTION CO LLC in Luzerne Twp, Fayette county. 78.121(B) – WELL REPORTING – PRODUCTION REPORTING – Operator failed to electronically submit production and status report to the Department through its web site.
Incident Date/Time: 2022-09-16 00:00:00
Tags: PADEP, frack, violation, drilling

13. PA Permit Violation Issued to PA PROD SVC INC in Murrysville Boro, Westmoreland County
Description: Administrative violation issued on 9/15/2022 to PA PROD SVC INC in Murrysville Boro, Westmoreland county. 78.88(e) – OPERATING WELLS – MECHANICAL INTEGRITY OF OPERATING WELLS – Operator failed to submit an annual report to the Department identifying the compliance status of each well with the mechanical integrity requirements for structurally sound wells in compliance with 25 Pa. Code Section 78.73(c).
Incident Date/Time: 2022-09-15 00:00:00
Tags: PADEP, frack, violation, drilling

14. PA Permit Violation Issued to PA PROD SVC INC in Murrysville Boro, Westmoreland County
Description: Administrative violation issued on 9/15/2022 to PA PROD SVC INC in Murrysville Boro, Westmoreland county. 78.88(a) – OPERATING WELLS – MECHANICAL INTEGRITY OF OPERATING WELLS – Operator failed to inspect each operating well quarterly for compliance with the well construction and operating requirements.
Incident Date/Time: 2022-09-15 00:00:00
Tags: PADEP, frack, violation, drilling

15. PA Permit Violation Issued to PA PROD SVC INC in Murrysville Boro, Westmoreland County
Description: Environmental Health & Safety violation issued on 9/15/2022 to PA PROD SVC INC in Murrysville Boro, Westmoreland county. 78.88(b)1-4 – OPERATING WELLS – MECHANICAL INTEGRITY OF OPERATING WELLS – Operator failed to meet minimum requirements for inspections to determine compliance with the well construction and operating requirements.
Incident Date/Time: 2022-09-15 00:00:00
Tags: PADEP, frack, violation, drilling

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