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SPECIAL REPORT: Pipeline to Prosperity, How an Ethane Cracker Facility Grows in Beaver County

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BEAVER COUNTY, Pennsylvania -

We've been hearing a lot about the possibilities an ethane cracker could bring, should PPT Global finalize their plans to build in Belmont County. Officials have used terms like "game changer" when it comes to the proposed plant. 7News anchor Tate Blanchard set out to find communities that are already experiencing the impacts of ethane cracker facilities across the country, in an effort to find out if they will truly be a "Pipeline to Prosperity."

We hopped in the car and traveled just 61 miles northeast to Monaca, PA where Shell Chemical is committed to building two ethane cracker facilities. For those of you not familiar with Monaca or Beaver County, we found out their way of life is very similar to ours. They have open access to the Ohio River, rail access, and an international airport 20 miles away. 

There are roughly 170,000 people living there and they once depended on steel as the backbone of their economy. That industry has since died and coal mines are shutting down left and right, if this sounds familiar, that's because Beaver County is just like our home right here in the Ohio Valley,  "This is an opportunity in which we can now say look at our region, we should be on your short list and we want you to come down and invest in us and look at all of the opportunities that we have and we're growing," said Beaver County Commission President, Sandie Egley.

It's a small area with a humble way of life. Shell is currently in the permitting phase of building their facility here, which is a lengthy process. It's taken the county five years to solidify the deal, but commissioners have their focus set on the future,  "It's a game changer for our area. It's been almost two generations since the steel mills have closed in Beaver County, so it's something we're been working hard for, for the past four or five years to achieve and fortunate for us and the
county and as well as the entire region, it's coming here," said Beaver County Commissioner Tony Amadio.
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Life-long residents of Beaver County of all ages remain optimistic, "I think it's going to be great for our area, there are a lot of deprived areas around Beaver County, I think it's going to bring a lot of great business, a lot of work for people who are unemployed and I just think it's going to be great for this area," said Debra Zarrillo. "That'll be good for us because there's really no surrounding plants like that around here for us, so that's great, that's good news. Laughing," Timothy Shoaff added.

Officials there are working to bring a sense of stability back to their community as well bring back the generation that left in search of a better way of living, all-the-while preserving their hometown historical integrity, "I think the community has overwhelmingly supportive of this opportunity and has welcomed Shell. Shell has been doing their due-diligence and they hold town hall meetings with a lot of our community members," Commissioner Egley stated.

Shell has invested billions in the project and the people are hopeful they'll invest in local trade unions and laborers to build and sustain the operations, "When the plant is completed there will be 600 family sustaining jobs, just at the cracker plant, but that's not where the game changing comes in. I mean, it's part of it, it's the catalyst, but the game-changing part of it is the ancillary, upstream, downstream, businesses that will come here," Commissioner Amadio concluded.

Next, in this series, Tate Blanchard will take you to one of the fastest growing economies in the country and it's all thanks to an ethane cracker plant there.

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