BEAVER, Pa. (WKBN) — Residents of Beaver County gathered at Irvine Park and walked to the courthouse to present commissioners with their demands for improvements to the Shell petrochemical “cracker” plant Thursday morning.

The rally began at 9 a.m. Thursday at the park in Beaver, Pennsylvania as concerned residents made their way to a commissioners meeting at the Beaver County Courthouse.

  • Beaver County residents rally against Shell Plant pollution (1)
  • Beaver County residents rally against Shell Plant pollution (2)
  • Beaver County residents rally against Shell Plant pollution (3)
  • Beaver County residents rally against Shell Plant pollution (4)

Organizers delivered a petition with more than 60,000 signatures to Beaver County commissioners and demanded they do more to keep residents safe.

Those demands included:

  • Commit to having real-time notifications of emissions exceedances by August 2023 and a well-functioning emergency management plan in place by November 2023.
  • Commit to calling on the state to halt polluting operations at the plant if Shell has 10 more violations.
  • Commit to hosting a town hall where community members can ask questions of relevant personnel openly and publicly about Shell and the county’s emergency response and emergency notification plans no later than July 14, 2023.

This rally follows the facility exceeding rolling 12-month emission limits for volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and other hazardous pollutants, according to state regulators. The state said Shell also violated limits on visible emissions from its flares, allowed foul odors to be released by its wastewater treatment plant and committed other violations.

The multibillion-dollar facility opened in November, only to be shut down months later after the company said it identified a problem with a system that’s designed to burn off unwanted gases. Recently, Shell has agreed to pay $10 million to resolve allegations that it polluted the air around its facility.

“I’m getting hit from both sides,” said Beaver County resident and Unity Council member Hilary Flint. “The toxic train derailment in East Palestine, OH happened just 35 miles from the Shell cracker. While the derailment is a tragedy caused by spilling and burning the chemicals used to make plastics, most folks don’t realize that harmful pollution happens every day when you live near a plastics facility. As a young cancer survivor, I worry daily about how the malfunctions at the Shell plant affect my health. I’m done surviving. The people of Beaver County deserve to thrive. I want to thrive.” 

The plant uses ethane from a vast shale gas reservoir underneath Pennsylvania and surrounding states to make polyethylene, a plastic used in everything from consumer and food packaging to tires.

First News has reached out to Shell for comment but has yet to hear back.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.