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Gov. Tom Wolf tours Shell cracker plant site, impressed by speed and scale of work

POTTER TWP. — Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf is impressed by the speed and scale of the work being undertaken by the workforce building Shell Chemicals’ $6 billion ethane cracker plant.

Wolf toured the 300-acre Potter Township site Tuesday morning, the first time he’s been back since November. The governor said the site has been transformed since then as thousands of workers prepare the land for construction, which is slated to start later this year.

The governor spent nearly two hours touring different aspects of the site, but said he was most impressed by the quality of the workforce and the fruits of their labor.

“I talked to some folks working, and in many ways that was the highlight of the tour because these are folks with really good jobs doing really good work,” Wolf said in an exclusive interview with The Times. “The first time I was here, Shell’s people said they were really impressed with the quality of work they’re getting from the people in this area.”

Wolf, as he’s done before, again referred to the cracker plant as the “biggest private-sector investment in Pennsylvania since World War II” and said the development is at the heart of a regional and statewide transformation that is seeing Pennsylvania become an energy hub.

“What I see is a lot of manufacturing growing up all around the plant,” Wolf said. “This is where the market is. Not Texas, not Louisiana, not Alberta, Canada. It’s right here in the eastern United States, and Pennsylvania is the Keystone State. As big as the project is now, it’s going to get bigger.”

Once up and running early next decade, Wolf said, the plant will have a “massive” impact regionally and statewide on the economy, but also in other ways.

The governor specifically mentioned the environment and said he has “every confidence” that Shell is doing its part to protect the local environment both during construction and when the plant comes online.

When asked about President Donald Trump pulling the United States from the Paris Agreement, Wolf said he was impressed that Shell and many other companies spoke out and said they would still adhere to the climate-change accord.

“Shell isn’t alone,” Wolf said. “One of the interesting results from the president’s decision was how many private-sector companies are staying committed to it. They’re still committed because it’s good business.”

Shell, one of the largest energy companies in the world, is “at the heart of the transformation” of how people worldwide produce and consume energy, Wolf said, which is why it’s so important the company spoke out in support of the Paris Agreement.

Wolf said he thinks Shell executives “recognize it’s in their self-interest, and they’re best served by retaining a commitment to the environment.”

The governor said another highlight of the tour was viewing a new water intake system Shell is building for the Center Township Municipal Authority on the banks of the Ohio River.

That new intake system will provide thousands of residents with water for decades, and Wolf said it’s just another example of how Shell has made the old Horsehead Corp. site better than when they found it.

“Those are the kinds of things that show this site is a better place than it was before,” Wolf said. “Shell is transforming it and creating all kinds of jobs in the process, and they’re also making this community a better place to live.”

Wolf said he didn’t discuss any potential future visits with Shell executives, but added that he’d love to come back when constructions starts toward the end of this year.

“I’ll be back as many times as they allow me,” he said.

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