Pittsburgh’s mayor snubs petrochemical projects (and jobs)

Nov. 8, 2019
Climate-minded politicians display unlimited willingness to swap the prosperity of others for environmental adulation.

Climate-minded politicians display unlimited willingness to swap the prosperity of others for environmental adulation.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto rendered climatological sacrifice on Oct. 30 when he said at an event called the Climate Action Summit, “I oppose any additional petrochemical companies coming to western Pennsylvania.”

Thirty miles northwest of Pittsburgh, Shell is building a complex able to produce 1.6 million tonnes/year of polyethylene from ethane extracted from Marcellus and Utica shale natural gas.

The project rehabilitates the site of a dormant zinc smelter, creates 6,000 construction jobs, and promises 600 permanent positions.

At least two other companies are said to be considering similar ventures in the area, drawn by locally abundant, cheap natural gas.

But Peduto, whose city has profited greatly from the Marcellus-Utica boom, wants no more of that.

“We don’t have to become the petrochemical-plastics center of the United States,” he told climate summiteers.

Peduto made his exclusive approach to energy development clear in an Oct. 23 response to comments by US President Donald Trump on the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. “The Pittsburgh region,” he said, “is thriving and has moved on to a 21st Century economy based on technology and clean energy production.” Trump on Nov. 4 gave formal notice that the US will withdraw from the agreement in a year.

For his jurisdictionally strained opposition to petrochemical projects, Peduto drew well-deserved scorn.

To cite just one example, the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association called his statement “an obvious attempt to pander to a select few by endorsing policies that would negatively impact cities and counties far beyond Pittsburgh’s borders.”

Activists, though, were pleased.

“It's refreshing and vital to see our mayor take a stand against the disastrous petrochemical buildout proposed in our region,” cooed a Pittsburgh community organizer with the Pennsylvania Sierra Club, urging Peduto to, among other things, work toward “a 100% clean energy economy for all.”

Pandering thus pays—except, of course, for would-be holders of jobs doomed by the panderers.

(From the subscription area of www.ogj.com, posted Nov. 8, 2019. To comment, join the Commentary channel at ogj.com/oilandgascommunity.)  

About the Author

Bob Tippee | Editor

Bob Tippee, Editor of Oil & Gas Journal, has written the weekly magazine's editorials since 1981. Since 1996, he also has written a weekly online feature called "Editor's Perspective," which appears first on OGJ Online and later in the print magazine. A member of the OGJ staff since 1977, Tippee has been chief editor since January 1999. He holds a degree in journalism from the University of Tulsa.