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Casey Lobbies Shell to Build Chemical Plant in PA

Thu, 01/12/2012 - 4:35am
MARC LEVY,Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. Sen. Bob Casey on Wednesday wrote to a Shell executive in hopes of persuading the oil and gas giant to choose a Pennsylvania site to build a huge new chemical plant that could mean thousands of new jobs and millions of tax dollars for the state.

The company has said it will decide early this year where to build the plant from among sites in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia, and those states' officials have lobbied Shell or offered incentives for what could be a massive investment that rivals the region's largest industrial plants.

"Pennsylvania has everything needed to make it a top choice for Shell's facilities," Casey wrote in his letter to Shell executive Mark Quartermain. "We have a proven work force, access to water, communities with a long history of working cooperatively with industry, an extensive rail transportation network and appropriate real estate. Pennsylvania also has an exceptional higher education network which will mesh well with Shell's commitment to innovation."

A spokeswoman for Pennsylvania's other U.S. senator, Pat Toomey, said Wednesday that Toomey has been in close contact with state economic development officials who are leading Pennsylvania's effort to land the plant, and members of his staff have met with Shell officials.

"We stressed the unbelievable workforce in the region, particularly Pittsburgh's great universities that produce world class engineers and highly skilled workers, the easy access to the inland waterway system in the region, and our strong commitment to the continued development of the shale," spokeswoman Nachama Soloveichik said.

Ohio's governor, John Kasich, reportedly flew to Houston in late November to pitch his state to Shell, which is a subsidiary of Netherlands-based Royal Dutch Shell PLC.

Shell's plans are driven by the vast natural gas reserves in the Marcellus Shale, a formation that lies primarily beneath New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. The Marcellus Shale is thought of as the nation's largest-known natural gas reservoir, and has attracted the attention of some of the world's largest energy companies and billions of dollars in investment already.

The main product at the proposed Shell plant would be ethylene, which is used to produce chemicals that go into everything from plastics to tires to antifreeze. Workers would break apart the molecules of the raw gas so it can be turned into various products.

The industrial complex would then likely attract many smaller, specialized chemical plants, the American Chemistry Council has said.

Royal Dutch Shell in 2010 bought a Pennsylvania-based drilling company, East Resources Inc., for $4.7 billion in an effort to expand and improve its land holdings in shale gas territories in North America.

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