Trump likens shale gas to ‘ gold’ in touting local industrial revival
Shell plant visit draws environmental protest
President Donald Trump expressed his support of fracking and tariffs and his admiration of Western Pennsylvania’s steel legacy during a visit Tuesday to the ethane- cracking facility being built in Beaver County.
In an hourlong speech to more than 2,000 workers at the Royal Dutch Shell plant in Potter Township — miles away from about 200 protesters outside the Beaver County Courthouse who inflated a giant Trump balloon with the words “Shell no” across its midsection — Mr. Trump took credit for “unleashing” American energy and making the plant possible.
“It was the Trump administration that made it possible, no one else,” he said.” Without us, you would never have been able to do this.”
Although the $ 6 billion plant was approved before Mr. Trump took office, he said that had Democrat Hillary Clinton won the 2016 election, the facility wouldn’t have been permitted to “transform abundant natural gas ... fracked from Pennsylvania wells.”
The shale gas rush, aided by horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, began in earnest in Pennsylvania about 2007 and has grown significantly since then. There are now more than 10,000 gas wells in the state.
It was this growth, and the decades of inventory that gas companies say they have left in the ground, that attracted Shell. The company started working on the plant as early as 2012 — buying the land, doing $ 80 million worth of environmental remediation and securing key environmental permits before making the final decision to proceed in June 2016.
The plant will take in the natural gas liquid ethane and churn out 3.5 billion pounds of plastic pellets each year.
The ethane will be “cracked,” or heated until it separates into its components, in seven furnaces fed by a 250- megawatt natural gas power plant on- site.
After being cracked, the resulting ethylene will flow into one of three processing units where it will be formed into pellets of either a linear low density polyethylene material, used in products like flexible food containers or canoes, or high- density polyethylene, which can be made into plastic buckets, PVC pipes and milk jugs.
The president repeatedly praised the project and made clear his support for natural gas — telling the workers “you’re sitting on gold.” He claimed that before his presidency, no one wanted to take advantage of it, although the industry was booming before 2016.
Mr. Trump touted his administration’s approval of pipelines — and promised that many more will be approved soon. A number of pipeline companies have complained in the past about long permit review periods from state and federal agencies.
Mr. Trump specifically called out New York state, whose department of environmental conservation has rejected several key water quality permits for pipelines that would have taken Appalachian gas to the Northeast, effectively killing those projects.
As a response, the Trump administration announced last week that it plans to rewrite the rules that govern water quality permit reviews, restricting the type of
information that state agencies can consider and the amount of time they have to give their decisions.
In praising Western Pennsylvania for its legacy of steel, Mr. Trump claimed that because of his administration’s economic strategy, steel is now thriving. He painted a descriptive picture of factory floors “crackling with life” and steel mills “fired up and blazing bright.”
It wasn’t that way before he took office, he said.
“I don’t want to be overly crude, but your [ steel] business was dead,” the president said. “And I put a little thing called a 25% tariff on all of the dumped steel all over the country, and now your business is thriving.”
The tariffs were once thought to be such a danger to the construction of the cracker plant that U. S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R- Pa., sent multiple letters to the U. S. Department of Commerce asking the administration to reconsider.
He urged relief not only from tariffs but from quotas imposed on steel imports from Brazil, Argentina and South Korea, saying that Shell had already pre- ordered what it needed and assailed Democrats in Congress would have to postpone construction for what he called “the and potentially Left’s energy nightmare,” lay off hundreds of workers mainly for promoting a if it couldn’t get a reprieve. Green New Deal. And he
Shell also has applied for took shots at the 2020 Democratic more than a dozen exclusions presidential primary from these tariffs, candidates. which the administration Mr. Trump said union instituted on the grounds of workers love him, but not national security. Some union bosses. have been granted, allowing “I’m going to speak to the company to bring in some of your union leaders steel from Mexico, Japan to say, ‘ I hope you’re going and other countries, while to support Trump,’” he said. others were denied. “And if they don’t, vote
At times during his remarks, them the hell out of office Mr. Trump because they’re not doing switched to his routine campaign their job.” speech and talked At the courthouse protest, about his love for the area the Sierra Club, the and nostalgia over the 2016 Center for Coalfield Justice, election. Extinction Rebellion Kentucky,
He blasted the Paris climate Concerned Ohio accord signed by his River Residents and other predecessor, Barack activist groups turned out Obama. He stressed the with signs against fracking, need for border security. He the cracker plant, global warming and air and water pollution.
Linda Stanley, a member of the Beaver County Marcellus Awareness Community, said, “Why do we have to go back? Why can’t we have clean air and jobs?”
A group of about 25 gathered across the street, including several teenagers in Make America Great Again hats.
Don Houghton of Brighton Township said he was there to support the president.
“We do have to work on the environment, but we have to work on unity first,” Mr. Houghton said. “Find common ground like we did on Sept. 12,” after the 2001 terrorist attacks.
Steve Zann, of Wheeling, W. Va., and members of the Extinction Rebellion Kentucky group wore clumps of plastic attached to their clothing — bottles, laundry jugs, bags and other packaging.
Mr. Zann said that in the past he had been more of a labor activist but now has joined the fight against plastic.
“We’re at a saturation level right now,” he said. “I can’t believe the glut of plastics that’s out there.”
Mr. Trump earlier tweeted that plastic in the oceans comes from China and other countries, not the United States.
As the group chanted slogans, including, “No Cancer Alley in the Ohio River Valley,” the drivers of some cars and trucks honked.
Aliquippa resident Terrie Baumgardner, a member of the Clean Air Council and other environmental groups, listed environmental and health concerns she has regarding the plant. She noted, for example, that expanding fracking to supply ethane to the plant would require more gas infrastructure.
“I live less than 2 ½ miles from the pipeline explosion,” she said, referring to an incident in September in Center.
“The narrative is that this plant is the only path to jobs in Beaver County ... No doubt, President Trump is espousing that narrative right now,” said Ms. Baumgardner. “Credibility is not his strong suit.”
President Donald Trump walks on stage for a speech to a crowd of workers before touring Royal Dutch Shell’s petrochemical cracker plant Tuesday in Potter.
Dianne Peterson, of O’Hara, chants while holding a sign made of plastic waste during a protest against President Donald Trump’s visit to the Shell Pennsylvania petrochemical complex on Tuesday. The protest took place in front of the Beaver County Courthouse.