Shell Chemical Appalachia has agreed to pay $10 million in penalties and for community projects to resolve air pollution and other violations at its Beaver County petrochemical plant.
In the consent order and agreement recently announced by the office of Gov. Josh Shapiro and reached with the state Department of Environmental Protection, Shell acknowledged the violations, agreed to make repairs to reduce any further emissions, and agreed to pay additional monthly fines through 2023 for further exceedances, as the company has already gone over its rolling 12-month limits for pollutants.
The order allows the plant to restart operations, which have been paused since March to allow repairs and maintenance to be done, including to the ground flares. Shell recently announced that the process to restart the plant has commenced.
The more than $6 billion ethane cracker plant built along the Ohio River began operation in November, and since then it has repeatedly exceeded its statewide, 12-month rolling permit limits for volatile organic compounds, carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides. The plant uses ethane from the abundant shale gas in the Appalachian region to make polyethylene pellets for plastic products.
In addition, the plant has repeatedly released visible emissions from the plant’s flares in violation the plant’s plan approval and had odor violations from its wastewater treatment plant.
Shell will pay a civil penalty of $4.935 million to the state, with 25 percent going to local communities. In addition, Shell will spend $5 million for environmental projects to benefit the local community. The DEP’s Office of Environmental Justice will collaborate on the community effort.
“With this agreement, the Department of Environmental Protection is taking steps to hold Shell accountable and protect Pennsylvanians’ constitutional right to clean air and water while encouraging innovation and economic development in the Commonwealth,” said Rich Negrin, acting DEP secretary, in a press release.
The consent order comes several weeks after two environmental groups filed a lawsuit asking the federal court to order to operate its the plant within legal guidelines and to impose civil penalties for repeated violations of air pollution regulations.
One environmental group, the Breathe Project, likened the $10 million penalty to a “parking ticket” for the multinational company that recorded $9.6 billion in profits in the first quarter of 2023.
Shell has said that it is trying to minimize its impact on the surrounding communities. “We’ve learned from previous issues and remain committed to protecting people and the environment, as well as being a responsible neighbor,” Shell spokesperson Curtis Smith told the Associated Press.