Trump likens shale gas to ‘ gold’ in tout­ing lo­cal industrial re­vival

Shell plant visit draws environmen­tal protest

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - Front Page - By Ju­lian Routh

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.”

An­drew Rush/ Post- Gazette

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.

Alexan­dra Wim­ley/ Post- Gazette

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.

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