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Pennsylvania Extends Public Comment Period on Shell's Cracker Pipeline

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has extended the comment period on the Chapter 105 water obstruction and encroachment permit applications for Shell Pipeline Co. LP’s Falcon Ethane Pipeline System, which would supply the multi-billion dollar cracker under construction in the western part of the state.

The project, including the cracker, are encountering growing resistance. Environmental groups, such as the Philadelphia-based Clean Air Council and the Pittsburgh-based Breathe Project planned to argue for an extension. DEP spokesperson Lauren Fraley said the agency decided to extend the period in response to numerous comments from, among others, individuals and environmental groups.

The comment period, originally scheduled to close on Tuesday, has been extended until April 17. It would coincide with and end on the same date as the public comment period for the project’s Chapter 102 earth disturbance permit applications, which opened on Saturday.

“After receiving a significant number of requests for a comment period extension, we believe it to be in the best interest of community participation to provide additional time for the public to provide thoughtful and constructive input on the proposed project,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell.

Shell applied for the permits in October. A technical review is being conducted by DEP to ensure that the applications meet all statutory and regulatory requirements. The agency also has elected to hold a public hearing in each of the counties on the pipeline route in the state, which include Allegheny, Beaver and Washington. The date, time and location of those hearings is to be determined.  

The company has said it plans to begin construction on the project sometime this year or next. Shell spokesman Ray Fisher didn’t say if the extension would affect that timeline, but only that the “process will highlight Shell Pipeline’s strong commitment to protecting the environment and communities where we operate, which is our top priority.”

About half of the nearly 100-mile pipeline would be located in Pennsylvania. It would originate at MarkWest Energy Partners LP’s Houston Processing and Fractionation Facility in Washington County and move through Allegheny and into Beaver County, where Royal Dutch Shell plc affiliate Shell Chemical Appalachia is constructing the ethane cracker.

The system would also have source points at MarkWest’s Cadiz processing complex and at Utica East Ohio Midstream’s Harrison Hub, which are both located in Ohio. The pipeline is designed with a capacity of more than 100,000 b/d. The cracker is scheduled to enter service sometime in the early 2020s. More information about the comment periods can be found on the DEP’s website.

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