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Fracking Pennsylvania to Make Plastics in Scotland?

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First photo of Ineos ship of gas from fracking destined for the UK. Andrew Shields / Friends of the Earth Europe

A new report from Food & Water Watch documents how a Scottish energy billionaire's dangerous plan to ship gas liquids across the Atlantic is linked to a controversial pipeline currently under construction across Pennsylvania.


The report, The Trans-Atlantic Plastics Pipeline, tracks how the fracking boom in the U.S. has spawned a resurgence in petrochemical and plastics manufacturing. A British company called Ineos has contracted with U.S.-based drilling companies to supply it with ethane, a gas liquid used to make plastics. And in order to deliver these liquids, Sunoco is building the 350-mile Mariner East 2 pipeline across the state. The pipeline ends at the Marcus Hook facility south of Philadelphia, where massive "dragon ships" owned by Ineos carry gas liquids to Norway and Scotland.

"Fracking is creating a public health and climate disaster while propping the highly polluting plastics industry," said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch.

"People on both sides of the Atlantic are suffering the costs, with extremely detrimental effects to our global environment—everything from air pollution and climate altering emissions to the proliferation of plastic waste can be tied to the companies benefiting from this poisonous process."

Shipping gas liquids to Europe will drive more fracking in Pennsylvania, with all the accompanying water and air pollution that has been well-documented over the last several years of drilling in the state. That drilling is the rationale behind the Mariner East 2. Though the project has been approved by state regulators, communities along the 350-mile route are fighting against the pipeline's construction through a mix of municipally-oriented strategies and nonviolent direct action tactics.

"Sunoco Logistics, aka Energy Transfer Partners, continues to insist that it is providing a 'public benefit,' while in fact it is simply lining its pockets at the expense of the environment," said Ellen Gerhart, a Huntingdon County resident who has been resisting Sunoco's pipeline construction on her land.

"We, as landowners facing eminent domain by this company, will continue to resist, and stand in solidarity with our friends in both the U.S. and Europe. The fight is not over."

The environmental hazards will be evident across the Atlantic, too. In Scotland, Ineos will be "cracking" the ethane to make ethylene, an industrial process that causes air pollution and creates additional plastic litter, like the small pellets called nurdles that are littering shorelines across the UK. Earlier this month, the Ineos petrochemical facility in Grangemouth, Scotland had a substantial ethylene leak that forced the evacuation of employees.

All of the companies involved in the trans-Atlantic pipeline, the report shows, have poor environmental records. The Grangemouth facility has been repeatedly cited by Scottish authorities for emissions and pollutions violations, along with workplace safety violations. One of the drilling companies in Pennsylvania, Range Resources—perhaps best known for a water contamination incident in Texas—has been fined almost $21 million by state regulators. The company has been charged with more than 500 health and safety violations between 2005 and 2016.

And Sunoco, according to one analysis, had a higher rate of oil spills than any of its competitors in the U.S. It recently completed a merger with Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the highly controversial Dakota Access pipeline.

Food & Water Watch offers several recommendations to communities and political leaders both sides of the Atlantic, starting with a complete ban on fracking everywhere, a ban on fossil fuel imports and ending fossil fuel infrastructure projects that are harming the environment and contributing to the mounting threats posed by climate change.

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