Organizers say these quips, leveled from the Rochester-Bridgewater Bridge, were aimed at the soon-to-launch Shell petrochemical plant in nearby Potter Township, Beaver County. The 780-acre complex has drawn fierce criticism from the environmental community and praise from others who welcome its promise of 600 full-time jobs.
Under construction since 2016, the plant is in its final testing phase, and is expected to soon begin churning out millions of tons of tiny plastic pellets. The facility has already been cited by the Department of Environmental Protect for leaking malodorous emissions last September.
Shell claims in its promotional materials that the site will "use the most recent technologies to provide the greatest energy efficiency and lowest
emissions." The company lists several measures it claims will reduce emissions, including recycling "tail gas" to power its cracker furnaces, using "natural gas-fired cogeneration to provide steam and electricity," sharing oversupply with the regional grid, and eliminating environmental impacts during transit and shipping.
Dianne Peterson, one of the banner drop organizers, says the entire industry is damaging to human health, regardless of mitigating factors.
“The petrochemical industry is at odds with our health," Peterson says. "From the gathering of the resources, to production, during its use, and lastly disposal, plastics are a dirty business all around."
Anaïs Peterson, a petrochemicals campaigner for Earthworks, told Pittsburgh City Paper the flag drop was met with "a mix of reactions — almost all positive, including some cheers and waves and agreement we need to invest in these good jobs to bring them to the area."
Peterson says ditching fossil fuels doesn't have to lead to job losses and points to Solar Holler — a crowd-sourced, unionized solar installation program in West Virginia — as a model example.
"By continuing to subsidize failing industries such as the Shell Ethane Cracker plant, our elected officials are actively making it worse for our region and preventing investment in sustainable non-fossil fuel based economies that offer long-term economic and environmental benefit," Peterson says. "We have the resources to make this transition happen and to bring non-fossil fuel based jobs here if we stop providing subsidies to fossil fuel companies."