Wednesday, May 24, 2023

DEP Signs Consent Order Including $10 Million In Penalties, Local Payments With Shell Petrochemical Plant In Beaver County To Resolve Air Quality Violations; Plant To Restart May 24

On May 24, the Department of Environmental Protection announced it has entered into a consent order and agreement (COA) with Shell Chemicals Appalachia, LLC , in which Shell formally acknowledged that the company exceeded total emission limitations for air contaminants, agreed to make repairs to reduce future exceedances, and agreed to pay nearly $10 million to DEP and the local community. 

The COA resolves air quality violations during commissioning of Shell’s petrochemical facility in Potter and Center Townships, Beaver County.

Under the COA, Shell will pay a civil penalty of $4,935,023 – and as required by Act 57 of 2011, 25 percent of this penalty will be directed to local communities. 

Additionally, Shell will spend another $5 million for environmental projects to benefit the local communities. 

In total, communities in Western Pennsylvania will directly receive $6.2 million for projects to benefit the environment, heath, and quality of life of the community near the facility because of the COA.  

DEP’s Office of Environmental Justice will collaborate on this effort. 

Shell will also pay additional monthly civil penalties for the rest of 2023 for any further exceedances. 

The $10 million in penalty and local payments is by far the largest penalty DEP has imposed for air quality violations since at least 2003.  In 2015, DEP issued a $1.7million penalty against PQ Corp in Delaware County.  Read more here.

Following the COA, Shell plans to restart operations at the facility on Wednesday, May 24, 2023.

“Pennsylvanians have a constitutional right to clean air and pure water, and my Administration will hold all companies – no matter how big or small – accountable when they violate the laws and regulations protecting our air and water,” said Gov. Josh Shapiro. “Shell recognizes that as a company, it must do better, and this $6.2 million commitment to the people of Western Pennsylvania is a down payment on that progress. My Administration will continue to work with Shell to ensure they live up to this agreement, and we will be prepared to hold them accountable for any future violations.”

“With this agreement, the Department of Environmental Protection is taking steps to hold Shell accountable and protect Pennsylvanians’ constitutional right to clean air and water while encouraging innovation and economic development in the Commonwealth,” said Rich Negrín, Acting Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection. “We know that Shell can operate a state-of-the-art facility that helps grow our economy without harming the environment, and we are going to hold them to the requirements laid out in their permits. We are going to make sure that they are good neighbors to this community, and we will be hearing from and working closely with the residents of Beaver County to make sure this $5 million is an investment into the community and the people that live there.”

Shell exceeded its rolling 12-month total emission limitations for volatile organic compounds (VOC) beginning in October 2022 through April 2023, carbon monoxide (CO) from February through March 2023, Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) from December 2022 through April 2023, and Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAP) from December 2022 through April 2023. 

Shell attributed some of these emissions to malfunctions and anticipates additional exceedances of its 12-month total emission limitations during the commissioning phase into autumn 2023, but not during normal operations.

In addition to emission limit violations, DEP cited Shell for flaring violations from June 2022 through April 2023, malodor violations from its wastewater treatment plant in January, February, and April 2023, and other violations from July 2022 through April 2023.

The COA requires Shell to obtain approvals to repair its totally enclosed ground flares, requires an engineering evaluation on the efficacy of pollution controls, and requires Shell to obtain approvals to install any additional controls. 

Shell will also continue to report emissions from the facility on a monthly basis.

On March 25, 2023 Shell suspended ethylene and polyethylene production to make repairs and perform maintenance. 

Results of recent simulations showed that adequate steam can be provided to the elevated flare prior to restarting operations in order to prevent unlawful smoke emissions. 

The COA requires the situation be monitored and requires Shell to renew the compliance guarantee monthly until the flares are repaired. A detailed simulation report on the steam system is also required by the COA. 

Click Here for a copy of the COA with Shell.

Visit DEP’s Shell Petrochemical Complex webpage for more information on reports and actions taken related to the plant.


Anaïs Peterson, Petrochemical Campaigner for Earthworks issued this statement following DEP’s announcement-- 

“Today’s enforcement action is long overdue yet far too little for a facility that has spent the past six months malfunctioning and dumping illegal and excess air pollution on the local community.

“Once again decisions have been made impacting Pennsylvania residents on the frontline of pollution without their input as one of the largest facilities in Southwestern Pennsylvania seemingly gets a pass to pay to pollute. 

“Fines and payments do nothing to negate the impacts this facility has already had on residents. Until Shell can prove their facility can operate within the law, the Shapiro administration and PADEP must order a temporary shut down."

Andie Grey, a watchdog with Eyes on Shell and lives three  miles from the Shell Plant and issued this statement-- 

“The overwhelming and toxic pollution residents have been exposed to has already harmed this community - there is no price tag that will allow for this to be acceptable. 

“Shell has repeatedly exceeded generous allowances, with little to no communication about the levels of pollutants being released. 

“The agencies responsible for oversight and enforcement cannot diminish the concerns of residents then claim they are going to make Shell a good neighbor - when there is ample evidence Shell has no desire to protect this community.”

Alison L. Steele, Executive Director of the Environmental Health Project released this statement on DEP's action--

“The Environmental Health Project recognizes the serious health concerns the Shell cracker plant presents for people living nearby and for all of us who are impacted by climate change. 

“The toxic chemicals that cracker plants release have been associated with a host of serious health issues, including increased rates of asthma, lung and respiratory infections, heart problems, poor birth outcomes, and neurological issues such as memory impairment. In large enough doses over time, many of these chemicals can cause cancer.  

“Making corporations pay for environmental damages may seem like a positive development. In this case, however, the penalty levied on a giant multinational corporation amounts to only a mild rebuke. 

“The $10 million Shell has committed to paying doesn’t begin to cover the cost of added healthcare, increased hospitalizations, and premature deaths that pollution from the plant has likely already caused or will cause in the future, with the highest toll falling on nearby residents and those living in areas where methane gas is extracted.   

“Further, rising emissions from the Shell plastics cracker plant—along with proposals to build a methane-fed hydrogen hub in the Pennsylvania-Ohio-West Virginia region—put our waterways at risk. 

“Our rivers, sources of public water supplies and recreation, are fragile ecosystems that cannot easily support intrusions of toxic substances. Additionally, large industrial complexes contribute mightily to greenhouse gas emissions that warm the planet. 

“Climate change spawns a worsening of the storms, droughts, fires, heat waves, and other extreme weather events we see nearly every day, all of which impact public health. Higher temperatures increase the likelihood of respiratory illnesses, heart problems, insect-borne diseases, and heat-associated deaths.  

“To better protect public health, stricter pollution controls on existing sources of industrial emissions, such as the Shell cracker plant, are needed immediately. 

“In the long term, only a transition away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energies, taking into account considerations for environmental justice communities, will offer the public health protections residents of Southwestern Pennsylvania and people across the globe deserve.”

Visit the Eyes On Shell, Beaver County Marcellus Awareness Community and Breathe Project websites for more information.


-- Post-Gazette - Anya Litvak: Shell Agrees To Pay $10 Million To Resolve Air Emission Violations At Beaver County Petrochemical Plant

-- Pittsburgh Business Times: Environmental Groups Say Shell Should Have Done More At Petrochemical Plant

-- Beaver Times: Shell To Pay $10 Million For Air Violations And Restart Petrochemical Plant

-- WESA/The Allegheny Front - Reid Frazier: Shell’s Air Pollution Violations Result In $10 Million Find For Beaver County Petrochemical Plant

-- AP: Shell Agrees To Pay $10 Million For Air Pollution Violations At Massive New Petrochemical Plant In Beaver County

-- Pittsburgh Business Times: Shell To Pay $10 Million To Settle Emission Violations At Beaver County Petrochemical Plant

Related Articles - Shell:

-- Groups File Federal Lawsuit Against Shell Petrochemical Plant In Beaver County For Air Pollution Violations  [PaEN]

-- Earthworks Submits Video Evidence To DEP Of More Air Pollution Violations By Gas Flares At Shell Petrochemical Plant In Beaver County  [PaEN]

-- Eyes On Shell Reports Shell Petrochemical Plant Fenceline Monitors Found Benzene Emissions Above Toxic Substances Limits; No Timeline For Restarting Plant; DEP Issued Another NOV For Air Violations  [PaEN]

-- Groups Urge DEP To Temporarily Halt Operations At Shell Petrochemical Plant In Beaver County; File 2nd Notice Of Intent To Sue For Air Pollution Violations  [PaEN]

-- Environmental Groups File Notice Of Intent To Sue Shell Chemical For Air Pollution Violations At Its Petrochemical Plant In Beaver County  [PaEN]

-- DEP Issues Notice Of Violation To Shell Petrochemical Plant In Beaver County For Air Quality Violations In Sept. - Oct.  [PaEN]

-- Dramatic Video From Carnegie Mellon’s Project Breathe Shows Shell Ethane Plant In Beaver County Flaring Natural Gas Due To Malfunction  [PaEN]

-- Shell Petrochemical Plant Had 3-Hour Emergency Flaring Event To Burn Off Flammable Gases In Beaver County  [PaEN]

-- Beaver County Residents And Allies Launch New Shell Ethane Plant Accountability Campaign  [PaEN]

-- Guest Essay: Shell Petrochemical Plant Off To A Bad- And Dangerous- Start In Beaver County  [PaEN]

-- Intense, Bright White Light From The Shell Plastics Plant Turns Night Into Day For Many Neighbors Of The Beaver County Plant  [PaEN]

NewsClips This Week:

-- The Center Square Guest Essay: Accountability, Stronger Bonding Rules Can Ease Routine Conventional Well Abandonment Problem - By Sierra Club 

-- Observer-Reporter Editorial: PA Supreme Court Reaffirms Environmental Quality Is A Right Not A Luxury In Shale Gas Drilling Ruling

PA Oil & Gas Public Notice Dashboards:

-- Pennsylvania Oil & Gas Weekly Compliance Dashboard - May 20 to 26; DEP Issues More NOVs For Conventional Well Abandonments  [PaEN]  

-- PA Oil & Gas Industrial Facilities: Permit Notices/Opportunities To Comment - May 27   [PaEN] 

-- DEP Posts 63 Pages Of Permit-Related Notices In May 27 PA Bulletin  [PaEN]

Related Articles This Week:

-- Democrats On House Environmental Committee Report Out Bill To Help Prevent The Routine Abandonment Of 561 Conventional Oil/Gas Wells A Year  [PaEN]

-- Citizens Voice Editorial: Renew Bonds To Close, Cleanup Conventional Oil, Gas Wells  [PaEN]

-- Republican Herald Editorial: Hold Conventional Oil/Gas Industry Responsible For Capping Wells

-- Susquehanna River Basin Commission Meets June 15 On Water Withdrawal Projects, Including 12 Related To Shale Natural Gas Drilling  [PaEN]

-- Susquehanna River Basin Commission Approved 36 Shale Gas Well Drilling Pad Water Use Permits In Bradford, Clearfield, Lycoming, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Tioga, Wyoming Counties  [PaEN] 

-- DEP Signs Consent Order Including $10 Million In Penalties, Local Payments With Shell Petrochemical Plant In Beaver County To Resolve Air Quality Violations; Plant To Restart May 24  [PaEN]

-- Things Are Different In The House: Hearing On Hydrogen Hubs Became ‘Democracy’ vs. ‘Open Mic Night’  [PaEN] 

-- Observer-Reporter Editorial: Court Drills Down On Environment - Environmental Quality A Right Not A Luxury [The Heart Of The Unconventional Shale Gas Drilling Industry]  [PaEN]  

-- Warren Times Editorial: Keeping A Natural Lifeline Pure With Environmental Rights Amendment - Environmental Quality A Right Not A Luxury [The Heart Of The Conventional Oil & Gas Drilling Industry]  [PaEN] 

-- Citizens Voice Editorial: PA Supreme Court Reaffirms Environmental Quality Is A Right Not A Luxury In Shale Gas Drilling Ruling   [PaEN]

[Posted: May 24, 2023] 
PA Environment Digest

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