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BEAVER, Pa. (KDKA) — Some pipelines in the region have ruptured, causing massive explosions. Others under construction, like the Mariner East pipeline, have been slapped with hundreds of violations for spills.
Now, opposition is growing for another pipeline to supply the cracker plant in Beaver County.
With the sprawling $6 billion plant under construction on the banks of the Ohio River, Shell Oil promises to bring thousands of jobs and economic vitality back to the county.
The mammoth plant also, however, brings safety and environmental concerns, including the proposed pipeline that will bring it natural gas.
“There’s never been a pipeline that never leaked. That’s a fact. Every pipeline leaks sooner or later, and some of them, as we just saw in Center Township, they explode,” Bob Schmetzer, of Aliquppa, said.
New natural gas pipelines are criss-crossing the state, and the Energy Transfer Company gas line exploded less than a week into its operation. The fact that the explosion was caused by shifting ground doesn’t inspire confidence in homeowners like Rachel Meyer.
“We certainly know that this past year with the rains, we’ve seen a lot of landslides, and it looks like that was the reason that that happened. So, you know, it’s scary that there wasn’t more preparation and understanding that that could have been something that would happen,” Meyer said.
The cracker plant will need a continual supply of ethane gas to crack or transform into plastics. Shell is proposing the two-legged, 97-mile Falcon Pipeline to bring the gas from Washington County, Ohio and West Virginia.
But it will need to cross streams and wetlands like the Beaver County Conservation District and the headwaters and water line of the Ambridge reservoir that supplies more than 6 million gallons of water per day to people in Allegheny and Beaver counties.
Residents like Bob Schmetzer worry about pollution and spills contaminating the water supply.
“This needs another route. Stay out of the watershed. Take it around. Do what you have to do, but don’t come through here and jeopardize 100,000 people and a whole economy,” he said.
For its part, Shell says it has spent two years working with landowners and engineers to put establish pipeline route, taking into account environmental concerns and planning safeguards for streams and water sources.
In a statement, the company said: “Shell executed numerous environmental studies and intends to take other steps to avoid or minimize any potential environmental impacts that could arise as a result of construction and operation of the Falcon Pipeline. Protecting the environment and ensuring the safety of communities where we operate is Shell’s top priority.”
Still, the Ambridge Water Authority opposes the route and the state Department of Environmental Protection has sent the oil giant a “technical deficiency letter” withholding construction permits at this time.
The cracker plant is already employing thousands of construction workers and promises to be an economic boon to Beaver County, but folks in the region say that should not come at the expense of the environment or their safety.