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Group keeps watch on Royal Dutch Shell cracker plant project in Beaver County

| Monday, Oct. 2, 2017, 12:21 p.m.
An artist's rendering of what Royal Dutch Shell's proposed ethane cracker plant in Beaver County might look like when completed.
Royal Dutch Shell
An artist's rendering of what Royal Dutch Shell's proposed ethane cracker plant in Beaver County might look like when completed.

A group of Sewickley Valley residents is advocating for greater environmental awareness about an ethane cracker plant proposed in nearby Beaver County.

Communities First will push Sewickley Valley municipalities to establish or update disaster response plans, distribute information on air quality and press to get an air quality monitor installed the area. The group is hosting an informational public meeting at 7 p.m. Oct. 5 at the Sewickley Public Library.

“We want to raise awareness, and that starts with residents,” said Gail Murray of Edgeworth, spokesperson for the group. “Don't just think about the business, think about our health, safety and quality of life. We're not anti-business. We are for health, safety and quality of life.”

Royal Dutch Shell has proposed an ethane cracker plant along the banks of the Ohio River in Potter, Beaver County, a facility that the company projects will create about 600 jobs when it opens in the early 2020s. The complex will produce polyethylene — a plastic used in products such as bags and bottles — from ethane obtained from Marcellus shale gas.

Officials at the Allegheny County Health Department, after studying the issue, have said “potential pollution levels will be minimal” in the county as a result of the cracker plant.

A representative for Royal Dutch Shell did not return a call seeking comment.

About eight residents make up Communities First, which has been meeting for three months, Murray said. The meeting at the library is designed to raise awareness, promote discussion and answer questions, she said.

Communities First adopted the same name as an advocacy group that lobbied to stop development of a Wal-Mart in Kilbuck in 2003. Persistent problems with landslides ultimately doomed that development slated for hill along Ohio River Boulevard.

While Murray said the group is not trying to block the cracker plant, Sewickley Valley's location about 10 miles downwind from the site concerns her and some others. The group is in the early stages of seeking an air quality monitor in the Sewickley Valley, Murray said.

Monitors installed at 16 locations in Allegheny County measure pollutants, and the health department makes information available on its website. Pollutants — including sulfur dioxide, ozone, and carbon monoxide — are monitored to ensure the levels do not compromise air quality.

In Beaver County, Royal Dutch Shell reached an agreement in August with two environmental groups that appealed its air quality permit issued by the state Department of Environmental Protection. The company agreed to install fence line monitoring to measure pollutants at the perimeter of a property.

Kimberly Palmiero is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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