Environmental Groups Take Legal Action Against PA Chemical Plant for Air Pollution Violations

Notice of Intent to Sue Shell Chemical Appalachia Alleges Emissions Violations for Smog-Forming Pollutants  

Pittsburgh, Pa. – Today, the Environmental Integrity Project and Clean Air Council filed a notice of intent to sue a petrochemical plant in Beaver County, about 30 miles west of Pittsburgh, for repeated violations of air pollution limits. 

The action against Shell Chemical Appalachia’s plant, located in Potter Township, is for illegal emissions of volatile organic compounds (or VOCs), which contribute to smog and can cause nausea, nerve damage, and other health problems, as well as nitrogen oxides, which can trigger asthma attacks and respiratory illness. 

Under the federal Clean Air Act, plaintiffs must send notices of intent to sue at least 60 days before filing a complaint in federal court. 

“Shell has blown through permit limits in the first few months of operation, putting nearby communities in harm’s way,” said Sarah Kula, Attorney for the Environmental Integrity Project. “Shell must be held accountable under the law and take appropriate steps to prevent illegal pollution going forward.” 

“Shell’s exceedances are not just numbers in a book, they are tons of pollution that can harm and even kill people,” said Joseph Minott, Clean Air Council Executive Director and Chief Counsel. “We can’t allow these pollution events to become the cost of doing business. There must be strict penalties to deter this clear violation of the laws.” 

In September 2022, the plant, called Shell Polymers Monaca, emitted 512 tons of VOCs, nearly reaching the 12-month permitted limit of its approved VOC emissions (516.2 tons of VOCs in any consecutive 12-month period) over the course of a single month, and all but guaranteeing ongoing VOC permit violations deep into 2023. 

Shell also emitted nitrogen oxide (NOx) and carbon monoxide (CO) from sources at the plant in the final months of 2022 at rates that exceed permit limits, according to the notice of intent to sue. 

In addition, public records show that Shell released soot and other “visible emissions” that violate limits in its permit and the Clean Air Act. The law prohibits visible emissions from flares and incinerators at Shell’s plant that exceed 0% opacity, including plumes of black smoke, for more than five minutes during any consecutive two-hour period. 

For a copy of the notice of intent to sue, click here. To view the accompanying exhibits, click here.

The Environmental Integrity Project is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, based in Washington, D.C., and Austin, TX, that is dedicated to enforcing environmental laws and strengthening policies to protect public health and the environment. For more information, please visit www.environmentalintegrity.org  

Clean Air Council is a member-supported, non-profit environmental organization dedicated to protecting everyone’s right to a healthy environment.  The Council has offices in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Wilmington, and works through public education, community advocacy, and government oversight to ensure enforcement of environmental laws. For more information, please visit www.cleanair.org 

Media Contacts:
Ari Phillips, aphillips@environmentalintegrity.org, (202) 263-4456
Leeannah McNew, lmcnew@cleanair.org, (443) 465-9556