Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

No Shell Game: This Cracker Plant Will Deliver

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

No Shell Game: This Cracker Plant Will Deliver

Article excerpt

When Shell announced Tuesday it had green-lighted its ethane cracker plant in Beaver County, a high school buddy who has been watching the oil industry for decades emailed me from New York.

This move "completely, totally, unbelievably turns conventional wisdom of the past 40 years on its head," John Kingston, director of Global Market Insights for S&P Global, said. "A petrochemical plant in the U.S., and not in Asia? And one not on the Gulf Coast? C'mon, that's crazy talk!"

The announcement does seem a throwback to an earlier time in Western Pennsylvania. We're talking 6,000 jobs in building the multibillion-dollar plant, and of 600 permanent jobs once it opens. Some incalculable number of additional jobs will come from the suppliers, diners, dry cleaners, schools and others who will be needed to serve the plant and its workers.

"If we can man it with everybody from here, it will be manned with everybody from here," Michael McDonald, president of the Beaver County Building & Construction Trades Council and a business manager with the Laborers' District Council of Western Pennsylvania Local 833, told the Post-Gazette.

The people likely to work these jobs are, in large part, the kinds of voters the Democratic Party has been losing to the likes of Donald Trump lately. This plant is coming in part because former Gov. Tom Corbett, a one-term Republican, championed generous tax credits for every barrel of ethane that Shell buys from Pennsylvania's oil and gas operators.

Though this work isn't "green," Democrats had better find a way to throw their arms around it (as Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Gov. Tom Wolf have). Because it's very good news for the working class that the party is supposed to represent.

The building trade unions have been cautiously growing their apprentice classes since Shell chose the location four years ago, and soon these family-sustaining jobs should become real. The average pay for a construction worker in May was $28 an hour, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. (That pay can vary widely depending on the job. …

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