In Beaver County, Corbett pushes Shell ethane cracker

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Joining a bipartisan coalition of supporters of Shell's proposed ethane cracker plant in Beaver County, Gov. Tom Corbett emphasized today that the building the multibillion-dollar processing facility is not a done deal.

Pennsylvania prevailed earlier this year in a multi-state competition to secure a preliminary commitment from Shell to develop the plant on an industrial site near Monaca. Mr. Corbett was joined there this afternoon by representatives of business and labor groups in a cautious progress report on the proposed development.

"We're not done," the Republican Mr. Corbett said. "We have brought Shell to this point but words on paper aren't shovels in the ground. We need to keep working."

The securing of the initial commitment from Shell was heralded as a coup of the administration and hailed by many business and labor interests.

But it has also been criticized by environmentalists and by some conservatives who object to the tax credits, approved with the state's recent budget, that would help support Shell's operations.

"Shell Chemical still has some important decision points to make in the next 6 to 8 to 12 months," Mr. Corbett said, warning against "critics and ideologues out there who would be happy to se this project fail."

Mr. Corbett reiterated his administration's earlier criticism of a Commonwealth Court decision that struck down zoning provisions of the state's new natural gas regulations.

He said he was confident that the state Supreme Court would reverse that ruling.

But while he said that the ruling "wasn't helpful" to the progress on the plant, that would use the products of the state's drilling boom, he suggested it would pose a major hurdle to the plant.

"What we can do from the state to this point, or from the local government, we have done," he said.

The governor said that while a confidentiality agreement prevented him from going into specifics, Shell still faced "a decision on a much larger financial decision before the end of 2012."

"Do I have fear -- I have fear that the economy could go bad, and that a final decision that they are going to make ... they will say, I'm going to wait a year or two," he said.

state - businessnews - marcellusshale

James O'Toole: jotoole@post-gazette.com.


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