Two environmental groups have filed a formal notice saying they intend to sue Shell Chemical's large new polyethylene plant in Pennsylvania over alleged violations of the Clean Air Act and state laws.
The Environmental Integrity Project and the Clean Air Council said Feb. 2 that they plan to sue Shell Chemicals Appalachia LLC over releases of volatile organic compounds from the Monaca, Pa., plant.
Federal law requires private groups to give 60 days' notice before bringing such challenges.
The announcement from the groups comes six weeks after Pennsylvania state environmental regulators issued the company a notice of violation for exceeding its annual emissions allotment for VOCs.
At the time, the state Department of Environmental Protection said Shell told it the emissions were the result of equipment testing and startup conditions at the plant, which officially opened Nov. 15.
The environmental groups echoed some specifics in the state complaint, saying the emissions from the plant in September nearly exceeded its 12-month limit, "all but guaranteeing ongoing VOC permit violations deep into 2023."
"Shell has blown through permit limits in the first few months of operation, putting nearby communities in harm's way," said Sarah Kula, an attorney for EIP. "Shell must be held accountable under the law and take appropriate steps to prevent illegal pollution going forward."
The groups said the VOC emissions "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."
The plant has annual production capacity of about 3.5 billion pounds of PE resin. It's the first major PE manufacturing complex in the Northeastern U.S. and the first built outside of the Gulf Coast in at least 40 years.
"We are in the process of reviewing the notice," the company said. "Shell Polymers remains committed to safe, environmentally responsible operations and will abide by all applicable laws and regulations."