Corbett has high hopes for Shell plant to be built in Pa.

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HARRISBURG -- With an end-of-the-year deadline looming on its Beaver County land deal, Gov. Tom Corbett says he's confident Royal Dutch Shell remains on track to build its proposed petrochemical plant in Pennsylvania.

Mr. Corbett touted the still-preliminary project during several appearances this week, reminding audiences in Harrisburg and Hershey that the so-called cracker plant would bring thousands of jobs for southwestern Pennsylvania if the final green light is given.

Top company officials -- who the governor described as "people higher in the organization than we've ever seen before" -- met with the Corbett administration and local government leaders last week to talk about future steps for the project.

"We feel very good that it's going in the right direction, and that our meeting with Shell went very, very well," Mr. Corbett said.

Shell and state officials announced in March, after months of competition with Ohio and West Virginia, that Pennsylvania was the company's preferred site for locating an ethane processing facility.

That announcement came after Shell signed a land-option agreement for the former Horsehead zinc smelter site in Potter.

A Beaver County commissioner echoed Mr. Corbett's optimism about signals from Shell, saying local officials have been meeting with the international company on a weekly or biweekly basis.

"Everything that we've seen going forward with Shell has been very cooperative," said Commissioner Joe Spanik during the state county commissioners association gathering here.

Mr. Spanik said county and township officials also are waiting on Shell to tell them which portions of the 1,000-acre Horsehead property will be used for the plant. Identifying those approximately 350 acres planned for development is necessary to start the application process for the site's tax-incentive designation, he said.

Local officials must sign off on Shell's application to enter the Keystone Opportunity Zone incentive program. Under legislation passed in February, any businesses in the zone would be exempt from state and local property taxes for 15 years, along with a seven-year extension.

Shell also agreed in October to make payments in lieu of taxes to Potter and Central Valley School District valued at 110 percent of the amount currently generated in property tax revenues.

Asked about the company's timeline for a site decision and for designating certain land for development, Shell spokeswoman Kayla Macke responded that the company continues to evaluate the site.

Mr. Corbett and Mr. Spanik noted that several decisions remain in the development process. "That's always been my concern -- until we put a shovel in the ground, I'm always worried about it," the governor said.

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Harrisburg Bureau Chief Laura Olson: lolson@post-gazette.com or 717-787-4254.


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