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Activists Ask The DEP To Reject Permits To Build Falcon Ethane Pipeline In Southwestern PA

Kathleen J. Davis
90.5 WESA
Outside the Department of Environmental Protection on Herrs Island in Pittsburgh on Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018.

Protesters gathered outside the Department of Environmental Protection's Pittsburgh office Thursday to urge the agency to deny permits to Shell Pipeline Co. to build an ethane pipeline. The 97-mile Falcon Pipeline would bring ethane to a petrochemical plant in Potter Township, Beaver County.

One concern voiced by protesters is that the proposed pipeline path runs close to the Ambridge Reservoir, which supplies water to parts of Beaver and Allegheny counties. Erika Jackson with FracTracker, a nonprofit that shares data about the oil and gas industry with the public, said a spill could be catastrophic.

"If over one hundred thousand barrels of a highly volatile substance is being pumped below our feet every day in pipelines that trespass sensitive ecosystems and our natural resources, we deserve to know.”  

Earlier this year, the DEP told Shell its application did not sufficiently address potential environmental impacts, among other issues. Shell responded by providing additional information. But Matthew Mehalik of the Breathe Project said the current application is still not good enough.

"We believe there are still major deficiencies with the pipeline application," Mehalik said. "As a result, we're asking them to deny these permits."

Mehalik said the pipeline would run in close proximity to hundreds of homes and nearly 250 groundwater wells.

Jackson outlined some demands, including more transparency, and "for the DEP to provide public access to usable pipeline data and time to review it, so public comment periods can actually be valuable."

The protest came to a climax when rally attendees entered the DEP office. Environmental Community Relations Specialist Lauren Fraley spoke briefly to protesters. 

"The applications are still under review, so we'll let that process play out," Fraley said. 

In a statement, Shell said it’s taking the appropriate steps to protect people and the environment. 

Kathleen J. Davis covers news about just about anything at WESA. She’s also the primary reporter and producer of WESA’s weekly series Pittsburgh Tech Report. Kathleen originally hails from the great state of Michigan, and is always available to talk about suburban Detroit and Coney Island diners. She lives in Bloomfield.