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Jon Greenberg
By Jon Greenberg August 16, 2019

Trump falsely takes credit for two large industrial projects in Louisiana and Pennsylvania

President Donald Trump has been taking credit for very large industrial projects in Louisiana and Pennsylvania. At a rally in Manchester, N.H., Trump said his policies were critical.

"In Pennsylvania we just opened up a $10 billion plant," Trump said Aug. 15. "We have many of them going up. Many, a lot of jobs. In Louisiana an LNG (liquified natural gas) plant — $10 billion — could never have happened, could never have happened. Pennsylvania would have never happened."

Earlier in the week, Trump was outside Pittsburgh to see a nearly completed Shell plastics plant. The massive facility will turn natural gas from fracking into polyethylene pellets. Announced in 2012 and started in 2015, the plant has produced about 6,000 construction jobs, with 600 permanent jobs expected.

"It was the Trump administration that made it possible," Trump told a sea of workers in yellow and orange worksite vests Aug. 13. "No one else. Without us, you would never have been able to do this."

Trump has crowed before about his role in getting the Louisiana plant up and running.

"It was many, many years trying to get permits, they couldn't get the permits," he said at a July 16 cabinet meeting. "But we got the permits, and we got them very rapidly."

The reality is that the LNG plant in Louisiana and the plant in Pennsylvania were in the works during the Obama years.

The Louisiana plant

The Cameron LNG project has three plants that chill down natural gas until it becomes a liquid to be shipped worldwide. At capacity, it can handle 1.7 billion cubic feet per day.

According to the company website, "In April 2014, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued the final environmental impact statement to construct and operate the liquefaction facility. FERC authorized the project in June 2014."

The company got its first federal approval in 2012. In 2016, Washington gave permission to add another two liquefaction lines, although the company hasn’t decided to move ahead on those.

While LNG exports have skyrocketed under Trump, which makes this plant more profitable, the actual plans and permits came well before he took office.

The Pennsylvania plant

In 2012, Royal Dutch Shell picked an old industrial site in western Pennsylvania for a major petrochemical facility. Shell’s American division Shell Chemical Appalachia bought the property in 2014 and began pre-construction work in early 2015.

Shell made the final decision to build the plant in June 2016.

The project needed two key permits for air and water quality protection, but those were state-level decisions. By mid 2015, Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection had granted initial permits for both. Final approvals were in place by mid 2018.

Washington did play a role in a pipeline to deliver natural gas to the plant. While the state approved construction in 2018, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission had to sign off on the rates the company would charge pipeline users. It issued its approval in September 2018. However, in its order, the commission noted that the company’s proposal was "unopposed."

Trade war impacts

While both projects are humming along, they have not been totally untouched by Trump’s use of tariffs.

Export demand for LNG remains high, but Trump’s trade war with China has reduced shipments to that country. In 2017, China was the third-biggest buyer. In 2018, China responded to U.S. tariffs with a 10% tariff on LNG. Reuters reported in May 2019 that only two ships headed to China had left from the United States since January, compared to 14 in the first four months of 2018.

Trump’s steel tariffs threatened progress on the Pennsylvania petrochemical complex. In the face of quotas limiting steel imports, Shell warned in 2018 that it would need to slow construction and might lay off hundreds of workers.

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., sent a letter to the administration Aug. 23, 2018, asking for relief. The administration did so within a week.

Our ruling

Trump said that two major industrial projects in Louisiana and Pennsylvania exist today thanks to his policies. In reality, both were well underway before he took office.

The Louisiana plant had all necessary federal permits by 2014.

The Pennsylvania chemical complex was subject to state regulations, and initial approvals came in 2015. Federal regulators approved the rate structure for a key pipeline in 2018, but construction approval for the pipeline itself came from the state, not the federal government.

Trump can take credit for boosting LNG exports and pushing a regulatory approach in favor of natural gas, but those dynamics were in play before his election.

We rate this claim False.

 

Our Sources

Donald Trump, Political Rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, Aug. 15, 2019

Donald Trump, Speech on Energy and Manufacturing Growth in Monaca, PA, Aug. 13, 2019

Donald Trump, Cabinet meeting, July 16, 2019

Donald Trump, Meeting with Korean Business Leaders in Seoul, June 30, 2019

Donald Trump, Speech on Energy Infrastructure and Growth in Hackberry, LA,  May 14, 2019

Cameron LNG, The Cameron LNG Journey, accessed Aug. 16, 2019

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Shell cracker plant in Beaver County to provide 600 jobs when it opens, June 7, 2016

Times, Shell CEO: Cracker plant project ahead of schedule, within budget, Sept. 25, 2018

Sen. Pat Toomey, Toomey Lauds the Administration’s Action to Ease Quotas on Steel and Aluminum Imports, Aug. 31, 2018

Sen. Pat Toomey, Letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Aug. 23, 2018

Site Selection Magazine, Let’s Get Crackin’, September 2016

Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Air quality permit approval, June 18, 2015

Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Fact sheet: Shell Pipeline Company Falcon Ethane Pipeline, April 2018

PA Environmental Digest, DEP Approves Shell Falcon Ethane Pipeline Permits In Allegheny, Beaver, Washington Counties, Dec. 20, 2018

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Declaratory order, Sept. 7, 2018

Factcheck.org, Trump’s Energy Errors, May 20, 2019

Marcellus Drilling News, Shell Gets Important Wastewater Permit for Beaver Cracker Plant, June 27, 2017

Shell Receives Air Quality Permit from PA DEP for Cracker Plant, June 23, 2015

Shell, SHELL TO BUILD A NEW PETROCHEMICALS COMPLEX IN PENNSYLVANIA, June 7, 2016

Associated Press, Pennsylvania township wants more info before Shell plant OK, Dec. 15, 2016

TribLIve, Potter officials approve permit for Shell’s cracker plant, Jan. 19, 2017

The Times, Shell officially starts construction on $6 billion ethane cracker plant, Nov. 8, 2017

Reuters, Trade war cuts U.S. liquefied natural gas exports to China, May 10, 2019

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Trump falsely takes credit for two large industrial projects in Louisiana and Pennsylvania

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