Monday, December 19, 2022

Republican Herald Editorial: Gas Industry Appeased Too Long

The following editorial was published in the
Republican Herald on December 19, 2022--

That didn’t take long.

Just months after the massive, taxpayer-subsidized Shell petrochemical refinery in Butler County began operations, the state Department of Environmental Protection has cited it for substantial air pollution.

The plant uses ethane, a byproduct of Marcellus Shale natural gas extraction, to produce plastic. Shell has not disclosed the refinery’s development and construction cost, but industry analysts have said it is at least $6 billion.

More certain is the amount that Pennsylvania taxpayers have contributed to the project through tax subsidies — $1.7 billion.

Those subsidies always were controversial because they conflict with official state policy. 

The state and federal governments have committed to trying to reduce fossil fuel consumption in the cause of mitigating harmful climate change, wheras the massive subsidies encourage and reward fossil fuel production on a massive scale, to produce plastic.

The plant officially began operating in November after gearing up since early September. 

According to the DEP, the refinery exceeded the levels of air pollution allowed by its state air quality permit for two consecutive months.

In September alone, according to DEP data, the plant released 492 tons of volatile organic compounds, 95% of its annual limit. By the end of November, it had released 662.9 tons.

The DEP has ordered Shell to produce an analysis of the excessive emissions and a mitigation plan, and will not decide on an enforcement action until it receives them.

Meanwhile, the episode illustrates the undue eagerness of too many state lawmakers to accommodate gas-related enterprises, regardless of the cost. And Shell was just the first of a wave of gas-consuming enterprises to receive massive state subsidies; hundreds of millions of dollars more are in the pipeline.

Such subsidies should not exist in their own bubble, insulated from developments after the state awards them to developers. Rather, they should be tied to the resulting enterprises actual performance, with subsidies being reduced with every violation.

Pennsylvanians long have endured massive pollution from extractive industries, often paying for it with their health. They should not have to subsidize it up front.

(Photo: From Shell Plant flaring video by Carnegie Mellon’s Project Breathe.)


-- Post-Gazette - Anya Litvak: Shell’s Flaring At Beaver County Petrochemical Plant Pushed Company Over Air Permit Limits, Data Shows

-- Beaver Times: Regulators Say Shell Exceeded Emissions Cap During Cracker Plant Startup

-- New Castle News: DEP: Opening Of Shell’s Western PA ‘Cracker’ Plant Caused Pollutants To Spike

-- The Allegheny Front - Reid Frazier: Shell Air Pollution Soars During Startup Of Beaver County Ethane Plant

-- Post-Gazette Guest Essay: The Shell Petrochemical Plant In Beaver County Shows How Western PA Benefits When Govt., Business Work Together - PA Chamber Of Commerce & Industry

-- PA Capital-Star Guest Essay: It’s Time Pennsylvania Residents, Regulators Demand Health Risks From Shale Gas Fracking Be Addressed - By Clean Air Council

-- TribLive Guest Essay: I’ve Seen Firsthand How Harmful Methane Pollution From Oil & Gas Industry Can Affect Our Health - Physicians For Social Responsibility Pennsylvania

Related Article:

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

DEP Public Notice Dashboards:

-- Pennsylvania Oil & Gas Weekly Compliance Dashboard -  Dec. 10 to 16  [PaEN] 

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

-- DEP Posted 69 Pages Of Permit-Related Notices In The Dec. 17 PA Bulletin  [PaEN]  

Related Articles Last Week:

-- Better Path Coalition: 65 Organizations, Businesses, 2,700+ Individuals Petition Gov.-Elect Shapiro To Ban Road Dumping Of Conventional Oil & Gas Wastewater  [PaEN]

-- Citizen Complaints Result In DEP Issuing PA General Energy More Violations At Loyalsock Creek Gas Pipeline/Water Withdrawal Construction Site In Lycoming County  [PaEN] 

-- DEP Consent Agreement Allowing Shale Gas Drilling To Resume Under Dimock, Susquehanna County Sets New Drilling, Water Supply Protection Standards, Imposes $444,000 Penalty  [PaEN]

-- Republican Herald/Scranton Times Editorial: DEP Professes Unwarranted Faith In Shale Gas Drillers  [PaEN]

-- DEP Assesses $600,000 Penalty For Illegal Disposal Of Over 1,800 Truck Loads Of Oil & Gas Waste Drill Cuttings In Fayette County  [PaEN]

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

-- AG Shapiro: Free Water Evaluations Begin For Homeowners Affected By Construction Of Mariner East 2 Natural Gas Liquids Pipeline  [PaEN]

-- Pittsburgh Union Progress - Laura Legere: Decaying Allegheny County Conventional Oil & Gas Wells To Be Plugged With Federal Funding Boost  

-- Bloomberg: A Massive Natural Gas Leak In Pennsylvania Is Adding To Climate Scrutiny

-- Presentations Now Available From Shale Gas & Public Health Conference In Nov. Hosted By PA League Of Women Voters & University Of Pittsburgh Graduate School Of Public Health  [PaEN]

-- PA Capital-Star Guest Essay: It’s Time Pennsylvania Residents, Regulators Demand Health Risks From Shale Gas Fracking Be Addressed - By Clean Air Council

-- EPA Accepts Final DEP Oil/Gas Facility VOC/Methane Emission Limits Regulation For Review, Stops Imposition Of Federal Highway Funding, Other Sanctions  [PaEN]

-- Ohio River Valley Institute Decarbonization Pathway Relies On Zero Emissions Resources, Energy Efficiency, Increased Electrification Is Less Costly Than Natural Gas, Carbon Capture Options  [PaEN]

-- CNX Unveils Appalachia-Focused Vision For The Future, Promoting New Natural Gas Development, Use - ‘Produce It Here. Use  It Here - First’  [PaEN]

[Posted: December 19, 2022]  PA Environment Digest

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