- Pennsylvania-based advocacy group FracTracker Alliance has said the 97-mile pipeline to Shell's new $6 billion cracker plant in Potter Township, PA, could endanger communities along path, according to The Times. The group asserts that the pipeline, which will carry 107,000 barrels of ethane each day to the plant, requires further examination.
- A study from the group found that the Falcon pipeline will be built through 25 municipalities in three states and could impact 319 streams, 174 wetlands, 550 homes 20 businesses, 240 water wells, 12 parks, five schools, six daycare centers and 16 emergency response centers along its route. The pipeline will also be constructed near the Ambridge Reservoir, which provides 30,000 people with drinking water.
- Both the Alliance and another environmental group, Citizens to Protect the Ambridge Reservoir (CPAR), said the state Department of Environmental Protection's public comment period is too short given the volume of information about the pipeline project. CPAR, which has petitioned the DEP for additional review time, has pointed to leaks and other problems with a $2.5 billion Sunoco natural-gas liquids pipeline in the eastern part of the state as one reason to give extra scrutiny to the Falcon pipeline.
This isn't the first brush with controversy for Shell's new cracker plant. Even though the operation could be an economic boon for the area, the project still faces numerous roadblocks — among them, environmental groups that assert the plant will be a significant source of air pollution, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
The U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is tasked with ensuring the safe construction and operation of gas and hazardous liquid pipelines. And, according to PHMSA, pipeline violations could cost $100,000 to $200,000 per day, or $1 million to $2 million for a series of violations, making negligence in pipeline construction or operation an expensive proposition.
Pipelines are almost always lightning rods for controversy, though, particularly when they run near sensitive environmental areas. Attorney Daniel Deeb, partner at Schiff Hardin in Chicago, told Construction Dive last year that energy companies typically choose routes that are likely to spark the fewest number of protests, even if there are more beneficial options closer to natural resources or endangered species. Sometimes, he said, "the path of least resistance" is following an already-reviewed corridor like one approved for a railroad.