The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) heard from residents in eastern Ohio about an ethane pipeline proposed by Shell.

Shell’s Falcon Pipeline would run through three Ohio counties, 46 miles in the state, as well as through Pennsylvania and West Virginia, transporting the ethane necessary to fuel the cracker plant its building in Western, Pennsylvania. The cracker creates ethylene, which is used in manufacturing plastics.

Map of the proposed Falcon Pipeline route. Click on picture for an interactive map. Source: FracTracker Alliance

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND JOBS

Tait Carter, director of economic development in Carroll County, testified at the Ohio EPA hearing about the opportunity for economic development the Falcon pipeline could bring. She said the area needs the jobs, taxes and investments that it will bring.

“The polymer and petrochemical industries will have monumental economic development impact on this region, resulting from this pipeline,” she said.  

Jeanette Wierzbicki is executive director Ohio Mid-Eastern Governments Association. Her organization has a regional economic development strategy that spans through ten counties, including Carroll, Harrison and Jefferson, where the Falcon pipeline would cross.

Citizens at the public hearing. Photo: Julie Grant

“A key component of that strategy is to capitalize upon the shale development that is occuring in our region, in order to build a more sustainable and diverse economy, and to avoid the boom and bust cycles that have occurred with resource extraction in our region,” she told the EPA.

Wierzbicki says revenue from shale development is already providing money to communities for infrastructure to attract new businesses.

“The proposed ethane pipeline will provide a safe, reliable means of transporting the ethane feedstock from the processing plants in Harrison County to the Shell ethane cracker under construction in Monaca, Pennsylvania,” she said.

But rather than excitement over the possibility of a petrochemical hub, the jobs and investments it could bring to this region, many at the hearing were concerned.

“Each ethane pipeline approved incentivizes further development, additional ethane cracker plants, and more oil and gas wells,” Chris Tavenor, Law Fellow with the Ohio Environmental Council told the EPA. “One pipeline might not impact water quality, but an entire petrochemical hub could have severe consequences for the health of residents in the region.”

Tavenor said Shell has not provided enough details on its mitigation and degradation plans to protect waterways from problems with the Falcon pipeline. Some who spoke were worried that a degradation in water quality in this region would harm threatened species, such as the Eastern hellbender salamander.

“You hear things thrown around like, ‘cancer alley,’ how about opportunity alley?”

Robin Bardun lives in nearby Tappan Lake where, she said, her rural home has been inundated with pipelines. She said there is already so much new oil and gas industry infrastructure that it is harming her quality of life.

“With the pipelines came road destruction, dumping of frack fluids into our streams and lakes, using our precious water resources for the fracking process, noise, fugitive emissions, well pad explosions,” she testified at the hearing. “This list goes on and on.”

Other local residents expressed concerns that the growing industry would bring them health problems, like breathing difficulties and cancer, that are connected with the oil and gas industry in other regions of the country.

OEPA expected a bigger turnout than 40 and had nine local police officials on hand at the public hearing. Photo: Julie Grant

ONE WORD: PLASTICS

Randi Pokladnik, an environmental studies specialist who lives in this area, questioned whether it is a good time in history for the region to get into the plastics business.

“Our politicians are encouraging the creation of more environmentally harmful plastic production, through construction of cracker plants up and down the Ohio River,” she testified, “At a time when countries all over the world are awakening to the consequences of plastic pollution.”

She referenced the air pollution created by plastics production, as well as the plastic bags, bottles and other items currently found in oceans throughout the world.

But the Ohio Oil and Gas Association was quick to defend plastics. Spokesperson Mike Chadsey told a personal story, about his daughter’s difficult birth.

“My daughter was in the ICU unit with incubators and tubes and hoses, made of plastic saving her life,” he told the EPA. “And I don’t think that can be discounted.”

He said most local residents support the growing industry. Referring to comments made during the hearing about cancer concerns from industry pollution he said, “You hear things thrown around like, ‘cancer alley,’ how about opportunity alley?”

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The Ohio EPA is accepting public comments on the Falcon Ethane Pipeline until May 30. Anyone may submit written comments or request to be placed on a mailing list for information by writing to: Ohio EPA, Division of Surface Water, Permits Processing Unit, P.O. Box 1049, Columbus, Ohio 43216-1049, or emailing epa.dswcomments@epa.ohio.gov.