By Andy Sheehan

MONACA (KDKA) — They still haven’t confirmed that they will build it, but Shell Oil is certainly acting like a $2 billion cracker plant is in the works.

They’ve clear cut more than 900 acres in Beaver County for a project that could bring thousands of jobs. But not everyone is happy with the progress so far.

From the air, it’s an astounding site — 991 acres of clear cut land on the banks of the Ohio River being groomed by battalion of earth movers.

It’s making way for a mammoth, $2 billion cracker plant, proposed by Royal Dutch Shell. It’s the biggest economic news in Beaver County in a generation and a godsend to construction workers on site.

“Time for change,” said Joe Stillwagon, of Independence Township. “I think it’s going to work out great for the economy and the community.”

“It’s going to support me, get me right into retirement,” Bob Strutt, of Ellwood City, said.

Shell hasn’t yet committed to building the cracker, which will turn locally harvested shale gas into plastics and other products, but if the project does go forward it will mean 400 permanent jobs and as many as 10,000 construction jobs.

Still, not everyone is please.

“To have a situation of just stripping the trees across the river was quite appalling to me,” said one Beaver County resident who lives near the site.

The oil giant has been preparing the site for the past two years, but in recent weeks that has gone into hyper drive.

Some folks in Beaver County don’t like the clear cutting of trees for a railroad maintenance road.

Also, Councilman Mike Deelo has asked Shell to address ongoing concerns about the construction of wharves, retaining walls and docks for barges.

“We want to work with them and we’re asking that they consider the needs of the community,” said Councilman Deelo. “So far, I think they’ve done a reasonably good job at that.”

For its part, Shell has issued this statement:

“As we previously shared, contractors are creating a flat, homogenous site for potential construction, and as part of this work, blasting activities are underway. This and other preliminary site development work is necessary and will position Shell well if we decide to move forward with the project.”

Begging the question, when will Shell announce its final decision?

They haven’t fully committed to this project yet; however, it’s apparent obviously to you and to us that they are quite serious,” said Councilman Deelo.

It’s hard to believe that Shell wouldn’t build a cracker after doing all of the work, but for a multi-national energy giant worth $200 billion, this may just be a drop in the bucket.

And so, like everyone else, we’re just going to have to wait and see what they do.

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