Shell charged with covering up Pennsylvania pipeline spills

By Mike Soraghan | 04/23/2024 06:43 AM EDT

The state accuses the company of falsifying records to avoid halting construction of an ethane pipeline.

Shell's Falcon pipeline during construction in 2019.

Shell's Falcon pipeline during construction in 2019. A.Lauschke/LightHawk

Shell Pipeline Co. is facing criminal charges for allegedly covering up spills during construction of its Falcon ethane pipeline in Western Pennsylvania in 2019 and 2020.

The state charges trace back to a whistleblower complaint by a pipeline inspector who said he was fired for voicing safety and environmental concerns about construction of the pipeline. The safety complaints of the inspector, Frank Chamberlin, were not part of the charges.

In the 46-page criminal complaint, the state says Shell and project contractors falsified records to avoid construction shutdowns that would cost Shell as much as $40,000 a day if state environmental officials knew the truth. By contrast, the largest fine the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) could levy was $10,000 a day. That created what environmental regulators considered a “financial motive” to break the rules.


“Pennsylvania’s environmental laws are in place to keep families and communities safe from harm caused by major construction projects, such as pipelines,” Democratic Attorney General Michelle Henry said in a statement. “This company chose to ignore those laws and kept quiet issues that should have been disclosed to prevent potential impacts.”