The Two Faces of Sen. Robert Casey (D-PA) on Shale Drilling

hypocriteU.S. Sen. Robert Casey (Democrat, Pennsylvania) has been an outspoken critic of fracking and Marcellus shale gas drilling. He introduced and is lead sponsor of legislation in the Senate called the FRAC Act—Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals (see this MDN story). The title sounds nice with words like “responsibility” and “awareness” in it, but in reality the FRAC Act is a massive power transfer, stripping the right to regulate oil and gas drilling from the individual states and handing it over to the Environmental Protection Agency in the federal government. It’s bad legislation that would gut oil and gas drilling in the United States.

Mr. Casey has also repeatedly called for federal intervention into his own state when there’s been an accident that may be attributable to shale gas drilling. He seems to jump the gun though, trying to blame the Marcellus drilling industry for accidents it doesn’t cause (see this MDN story).

Unbelievably, Mr. Casey now has his hand out and wants Shell, who has promised to build an ethane cracker plant to process wet gas in the Marcellus region, to build their plant in Pennsylvania! Yes, the man who wants to regulate Marcellus drilling out of existence, when faced with a jobs and revenue generating powerhouse like a cracker plant ($1.5-$2.0 billion to build it, total economic impact reaching as high as $16 billion), sings a different tune.

U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) today urged Shell Oil Company to bring a natural gas processing facility to Pennsylvania, which could create thousands of jobs and leverage billions of dollars in private investment to the region. Shell is considering locations to construct a large facility to break down natural gas, which is abundant in Pennsylvania, into substances used to produce plastics, fibers, and automotive products, which would also boost Pennsylvania manufacturing.

“Pennsylvania is at the epicenter of the rapidly growing Marcellus shale natural gas industry, making it the ideal location for a processing plant that will create thousands of local jobs,” said Senator Casey. “Pennsylvania has the skilled workers, natural resources and innovative research network needed to support this plant and boost Pennsylvania’s economy.”

Shell is considering building the plant, called an ethane cracker, in the northeast so it can process gas extracted from the Marcellus shale formation. There is currently no infrastructure in the region to process the natural gas co-product, requiring it to be shipped elsewhere. Some estimates indicate that the construction of a new processing complex could attract up to $16 billion in private investment and create thousands of jobs in the process.

“I am optimistic that a Shell facility will be the foundation of an industrial and manufacturing expansion that will bring thousands of construction and production jobs to Pennsylvania,” Senator Casey wrote today to Shell President Mark Quartermain. “I encourage you to take this opportunity to build on Pennsylvania’s long manufacturing history and invest in the region.”*

MDN’s view: Bob Casey’s about face on drilling is disgusting and hypocritical. If he really wants to prove his credibility on the drilling issue, he would remove his name as a sponsor from the FRAC Act. But don’t hold your breath.

*Sen. Robert Casey (Jan 11, 2012) – Casey Urges Shell to Bring Job-Creating Natural Gas Processing Plant to Pennsylvania