Did Shell Pull a Fast One on Big Green Groups re Air Permit?

Earlier this week MDN reported that Shell had settled an action brought by Big Green groups against an air permit issued for their now under construction ethane cracker plant in Beaver County, PA (see Shell Cuts Deal with Big Green Groups re Cracker Plant Air Permit). In 2015, two Big Green groups–the Philadelphia-based Clean Air Council and the Washington, DC-based Environmental Integrity Project (both disgusting litigation factories) filed a complaint against Shell to block the air quality permit needed to build the $6 billion ethane cracker in Monaca (see Big Green Groups File to Block Shell Cracker Air Quality Permit). The filing came after the state Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) approved the air permit for the facility. The two Big Green groups filed an appeal with the state Environmental Hearing Board, a special court set up to hear appeals of DEP decisions. The groups believe the DEP “should have required more stringent monitoring requirements for fugitive air emissions from Shell.” Specifically the groups wanted fence line monitoring. So Shell “caved” and agreed. But in reading an account of the agreement, it dawned on us, reading between the lines, that perhaps this is what Shell planned all along! That is, Shell already planned to do fence line monitoring. The settlement Shell signed earlier this week ensures the Big Green groups can’t bring any further actions with regard to the air permit. We don’t know for sure, but it seems to us like maybe Shell was playing a long game of chess, and knew this kind of action would come, and held back the fenceline monitoring piece until the right time to play it–trading the fence line monitoring pawn for inoculation against future Big Green litigation. Smart…

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