Potter Shell ethane-cracker plant moves forward with approval of application

Potter Shell ethane-cracker plant moves forward with approval of application
  1. Potter Shell ethane-cracker plant moves forward with approval of application
    Potter moved a step closer Wednesday night to approving Shell Chemical Co.’s petrochemical complex along the Ohio River in Beaver County after an impassioned and disruptive h…

Potter moved a step closer Wednesday night to approving Shell Chemical Co.’s petrochemical complex along the Ohio River in Beaver County after an impassioned and disruptive hearing.

The township supervisors, braving a 10-hour hearing in mid-December on Shell’s conditional use application, adjourned that meeting with lingering questions about noise, traffic and light pollution from the plant. They also requested more information about the ethane pipeline that would carry the product to the plant.

On Wednesday, as Potter’s solicitor, Mike Jones, chronicled dozens of exhibits submitted by Shell in support of its application, about 20 people in attendance held up signs that read “Deficient: DENY.”

In their laps, they held another piece of paper anticipating the supervisors vote. It read “Disaster Decision.”

Two police officers hovered close to a young man whose testimony on the plant at a hearing before the Pennsylvania Dpearment of Environmental Protection last month turned into a tirade against all things plastic, fossil, and fuel.

The supervisors wondered how they would know whether the noise, traffic and lighting thresholds that were being set by the permit would actually be adhered to.

But many in the audience weren't interested in tweaking details. They wanted a wholesale repudiation of the plant and the industry. One woman praised Shell for remediation work on the former Horsehead zinc smelter site and suggested the company simply put a solar farm on the land.

When supervisors chairwoman Rebecca Masco proposed a motion for Potter’s solicitor to draft language approving the permit with conditions, the crowd erupted in chants of “No.”

When the motion was approved, they switched to “Shame.”

“We will ask for order,” Ms. Masco said.

“Maybe the public wants disorder,” shouted Margaret Baco, a registered nurse who came to testify against the plant.

“Standing Rock stands,” said Beth McAhren, who earlier urged the supervisors to “have courage” and be the “David to Goliath.”

Michael Marr, who later said he appreciated the time and diligence that Potter Township supervisors had put into reviewing Shell’s application, said the meeting’s tone and pitch didn’t deviate much from others around the country where Shell has proposed large projects.

The supervisors still need to approve the exact language of the permit approval at a later public hearing.

As in previous township meetings, Shell had more than a dozen company officials and lawyers on hand, this time to address questions about the ethane pipeline that will supply the cracker plant. The plant will take ethane, a natural gas liquid plentiful in the Appalachian region, and transform it into pellets to be used in the manufacture of plastics.

The Shell plant will have three pipelines feeding it — one for ethane, another for natural gas, and a third for nitrogen. Shell Pipeline Co. and Shell Chemical officials couldn’t speak to the natural gas and nitrogen lines, saying they were still in preliminary stages.

But the pipeline company provided some details on the Falcon Ethane pipeline, a 94-mile pipe that will collect ethane from three gas processing plants — in Houston, Washington…

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