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CP Photo: Jared Wickerham
The Shell ethane cracker plant in Monaca during early construction stages in February 2018.
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection
has ordered that the Shell Pipeline Company and its construction contractor pay $670,000 in fines for releasing sediment pollution into state waterways.
The department announced the federal court ruling in an Oct. 13 press release, which said the verdict resulted from a series of violations flagged during 67 inspections conducted between March 2019 and April 2021.
The inspections, conducted by the Allegheny, Beaver, and Washington County conservation districts on the DEP’s behalf, found "violations resulting in sediment pollution from pipeline construction sites entering waters of the commonwealth as well as violations that had the potential to cause sediment pollution into waters of the commonwealth."
The inspections related to the construction of Shell's Falcon pipeline project which was fulfilled by contractor Minnesota Limited, LLC.
The press release noted no "visual aquatic impacts were observed" as a result of the violations.
Shell's Falcon pipeline project crosses through portions of Allegheny, Beaver, and Washington counties and connects ethane production facilities in Houston, Pa. to a petrochemical facility in Monaca. A separate segment of the pipeline connects ethane production facilities in Ohio and crosses through Beaver County.
In total, the DEP and the conservation districts observed multiple violations that included eight sediment discharges, "failure to implement or maintain effective erosion and sediment best management practices, and failure to stabilize the site upon cessation of earth disturbance activity." Shell, according to the department, also failed to comply with the conditions of the erosion and sediment control general permit it received for the project.
In Dec. 2018, Shell also received encroachment permits in Allegheny, Beaver, and Washington counties, which, according to the DEP website, outlines requirements related to construction around waterways, dams, and wetlands.
The fine adds to a growing list of environmental grievances related to Shell projects in southwestern Pa., where communities have voiced concern
over how the Falcon Pipeline and the petrochemical facility in Monaca, more commonly known as the Shell cracker plant, will affect air and water quality in the area. This is despite support from state officials
like Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, who viewed the facility as a job generator for the region.
The plant, on which construction was completed in September, will refine natural gas liquid from the Marcellus and Utica shale into plastic pellets.
In March 2021, the Falcon pipeline built to transport natural gas liquid to the plant was under investigation for corrosion that, according to a previous Pittsburgh City Paper article
, posed a "possible threat of product release, landslide, or even explosion.” That same year, the DEP issued a notice of violation to Shell when the plant emitted an offensive odor and "fugitive dust."
For the latest violation, Shell agreed to pay a $670,000 civil penalty, as well as payments of $21,339 to the DEP, $1,824 to the Allegheny County Conservation District, $1,496 to the Beaver County Conservation District, and $2,611 to the Washington County Conservation District. $479,464 will go into the commonwealth’s Clean Water Fund and $211,875 will go into the Encroachments Fund.