Monaca, Pa. — Years in the works, a massive petrochemical refinery in western Pennsylvania fed by the vast natural gas reservoir underneath Appalachia became fully operational recently, oil and gas giant Shell said.
The refinery, built on the site of a former zinc smelter along the Ohio River some 30 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, will produce 3.5 billion pounds of polyethylene annually when it ramps up to full production by the second half of 2023, Shell said.
The $6 billion refinery brings in ethane from natural gas wells and chemically “cracks” the liquid fuel by heating it in furnaces to create ethylene, which is used to produce everything from plastics to tires to antifreeze.
Avian Flu Still Spreading in State
State College, Pa. — Outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza, which struck Pennsylvania in early 2022, have continued into the fall. And that has prompted Penn State poultry experts to emphasize, once again, the importance of sound biosecurity measures for owners of backyard and commercial flocks.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that as of Nov. 21, avian influenza in 2022 has caused the death of about 50.4 million birds nationally, either directly from the disease or from the culling of flocks to prevent additional spread of the virus.
In Pennsylvania this year, avian flu outbreaks have impacted 25 commercial poultry flocks and nine backyard flocks, causing the loss of an estimated 4.4 million birds, with the latest detection reported Nov. 10 in Lehigh County.
Containing avian influenza is critical for Pennsylvania’s $7.1 billion poultry industry. The Keystone State ranks fourth nationally in egg production, eighth in turkey production and 12th in broiler production.
Portion of White Haven Project Completed at Lehigh Gorge State Park
White Haven, Pa. — The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Bureau of State Parks recently announced that construction has been completed for parts of a rehabilitation project at Lehigh Gorge State Park, reopening a portion of the White Haven South Access to the public.
The completed portion of the project gives the public access to a new, modern, year-round restroom facility, improved public boat launch, and upgraded parking areas. Access to Middleburg Road and trail from downtown White Haven to the railroad underpass has also been restored.
As the project continues, access will be restricted to the road and trail in the area south of the railroad underpass to new Tannery Road, including the new entrance at Route 940.
D&L Trail Project in the Lehigh Valley
Allentown, Pa. — The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources recently announced a significant state investment in new grant funding to support the development of the D&L Trail in the Lehigh Valley
In concert with the D&L and Sen. Pat Browne, the agency is committing $3 million total to close trail gaps in Catasauqua, Hanover Township, and Allentown. The funds will be matched by $2 million in funding Sen. Browne secured through the 2022- 23 state budget to close significant sections of trail gaps along the eastern side of the Lehigh River.
Once the sections are completed, the D&L will have 140 miles of continuous open trail.
Plea Hearing Held in ‘Gasland’ Case
Montrose, Pa. — A plea hearing was held in late November in the long-running case of a natural gas driller facing felony charges over allegations it polluted the aquifer of a small Pennsylvania community 14 years ago.
Houston-based Coterra Energy appeared in Susquehanna County Court on Nov. 28. Coterra’s corporate predecessor, Cabot Oil & Gas Corp., was charged in June 2020 with 15 criminal counts after a grand jury investigation found the company drilled faulty gas wells that leaked flammable methane into residential water supplies in Dimock and surrounding communities.
Many residents continue to avoid using their well water, using bottled water, bulk water purchased commercially, and even water drawn from creeks and artesian wells instead.
Ahead of the plea hearing, top officials in the state attorney general’s office, which is prosecuting Coterra, briefed Dimock residents recently on a plan to connect their houses to a clean source of water.
The plan calls for Pennsylvania American Water, a water utility, to drill two water wells and build a treatment plant that will remove any contaminants from the water before piping it to about 20 homes in Dimock.
Muth, Powell Get Forestry Assoc. Awards
State College, Pa. — Two Penn State educators were honored for their contributions to the conservation of Pennsylvania’s natural resources at the Pennsylvania Forestry Association’s annual symposium Nov. 5.
Allyson Muth, assistant research professor who serves as director of the James C. Finley Center for Private Forests, received the Joseph Trimble Rothrock Conservationist of the Year Award.
Michael Powell, a senior research technologist in the Department of Ecosystem Science and management, received the Sandy Cochran Award for Excellence in Natural Resources Education Award.