Clean Air Council looks at health impact of cracker plant

The Clean Air Council has looked the potential health impact of Shell's proposed ethane cracker plant on Beaver County’s residents.

In a report the council released Tuesday, it pointed out that residents in the county are older than the average Pennsylvanian, and have higher rates of heart disease and asthma. Therefore, they may be more vulnerable than other communities to the impact from air pollution released by the plant, according to the report.

The nonprofit surveyed local residents in Monaca, where Shell is considering building the plant that will turn natural gas liquids into materials for chemical manufacturers.

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

According to plans that Shell filed with the Environmental Protection Agency in May, the plant, if built, is expected to emit a number of air pollutants, including carbon monoxide, ozone, particulate matter, volatile organic compounds and hazardous air pollutants. These pollutants are linked to increased risk of respiratory and cardiovascular complications, hospitalizations and increased mortality."

Shell hasn't broken ground on the project yet because it doesn't have the necessary environmental permits it needs, but it has purchased land at the former Horsehead zinc smelter for the plant and begun demolition, according to the Post-Gazette.

The Clean Air Council lists numerous recommendations for Shell, including:

  • The company allow citizens to review facility plans, receive emergency notifications and monitor air quality data;

  • Infrared cameras be installed and monitored by employees to spot leaks from equipment or any gases emitted from the site;

  • Provide further details on flaring emissions, hazardous air pollutant emissions and leak control measures;

  • Do its own air study and pay attention on how emissions will be affected by weather;

  • Have a dedicated and staffed phone line to answer residents questions and complaints;

  • Hire local workers.

A Shell spokeswoman told the Post-Gazette the company will review the report and continue to meet with local residents and communicate its plans for the plant.

Reach Natasha Khan at nkhan@publicsource.org or 412-315-0261. Follow her on Twitter @khantasha.