Cracker Plants Exist, But Don't Eat Them!
In western Pennsylvania, Potter Township Beaver county, a bit north of Pittsburgh, there is a petrochemical plant in the works, commonly referred to as a 'cracker plant'. Generically, they will produce ethylene which is a building block in plastics of many forms. They will do this by utilizing the by-products of the ubiquitous, toxic, and dangerous fracking industry Pennsylvania has to offer. Which has already taken a heavy toll on the health and finances of the state.
The cracker plant (if i'm not mistaken) will employ temporarily around 6,000 people to build it, and 600 people permanently to run it. It will release toxic chemicals into the air, water, and ground, with negative effects occurring immediately, but the major damage to the region isn't expected to be apparent for for 5, 10, or more years. It is stated that it's capacity will be 2.5 times greater than anything in existence of like kind.
This plant will have the most advanced technology to date to reduce, but not eliminate, the toxic chemicals being emitted from the plant into the environment. However, this does not mean that these systems will run properly, or will be well monitored and maintained. One of the major causes of accidents in plants like this (look up plants in Louisiana for reference) is not the lack of safety systems, but the lack of them being implemented and kept up with.
Shell has walked back on previous agreements for fence line pollution monitoring, and they are attempting to circumvent environmental regulations and protections in regards to the toxins the plant will release through negotiation attempts with local leaders, officials, regulators, and the DEP/EPA
Additionally, Shell is misleading the public on how dangerous this plant will be. What they are doing however, as well as local and state representatives, is touting the volumes of jobs and economic growth this plant will bring to the region. Both from the plant itself, it's predicted expansion, and the many other companies that will spring up (which will produce more toxins) using what the plant, and the Shale industry create. The plant will pollute the air, land, and water of the region.
Shell is an international monster of a corporation. They were given tax breaks to build this plant by the state of Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania has a rather large defect mind you) and they only needed 3 supervisors at a township level to approve their conditional use plan to start building.
This plant is pushed as a boon to the economy, as it speculates that it will create jobs and opportunity. Approx 6,600 jobs to be relatively correct. And the locals, as far as I can tell, hope that these jobs and opportunities will go to them. As they need employment desperately. And sadly they are willing to sacrifice the future, for a job. Which with as much as I disagree with this plant, I can't disagree with inividuals seeking a job.
Now, I can't say I can see into the future, but I think this entire project is incredibly short sighted by every party who has been pushing it. The region still does not meet air quality standards. And a Cracker Plant that brings with it very dangerous air pollutants, is going to add to the already negative environmental situation. Just as the region appears to be on the right track with air quality, the franking boom happens, and now the chemical industry boom looms large on the horizon. From all accounts, this plant will be the end for any hope of truly clean air in this region, in what looks to be a drag back through time to the polluted steel age.
Sadly, this plant is just the beginning. With the product this cracker plant will produce, more businesses will pop up in the region that will utilize both this, and the gas from the fracking industry. Resulting in more damage to the land, air, water, and every other living thing in the region.
But the plant isn't the problem. We are.
We purchase, use, then throw away without a second thought the stuff that this plant is being built to produce. Imagine for a second; everything that this plant assists in making, will end up in a landfill somewhere, or burned one day, resulting in more pollution and a troubling future. Nothing this plant creates will be sustainable.
It's not Shell, nor the local, regional, or federal leaders that are the real problem. It's us. We are the reason that these plants are being built. As long as the items we use come from someplace we don't know, and goes someplace we will never see, we then will use and dispose as much as we can. Unfortunately out of sheer ignorance to the situation. As if our trash simply vanishes once put to the curb.
Therefore, besides fighting the pollution this plant will create, the tax breaks a state in the red has given them, the regulators and leaders that they will presumably sway, the activists that tried to stop it and protect the environment, the fact that compostable plastic is available and sustainable solutions are on the rise, and the 6,600 jobs and opportunities proposed, we should be looking at ourselves. If we didn't use the stuff this plant was making, the plant wouldn't even exist.
Yes, people need jobs. There are so many people who do not have jobs, who have to work two or three jobs just to survive, who are underpaid and struggling. We needs jobs. There will never be a time when people do not need jobs. But we do not need jobs that destroy our future.
We need companies that are making the right choices for the future, that are stewards of the environment, and that are pushing the envelope into sustainability. We do not need the companies that are destroying the future for profit, in which the pollution will far out last them, or the jobs they will potentially create.
Pennsylvania, along with every other state, has to promote and get behind the future. And how do we do that? By starting with ourselves, and providing support to products and services that ultimately do no harm to us, the land, sea, and air. And taking a stand against the ones that do.
It's always us, we've always been the problem. However, we are also the solution.