When states don't reduce air pollution enough to meet federal standards, those areas are listed as being in "non-attainment," and face various possible sanctions, including tougher permit requirements for new businesses.
Kessler did not suggest that Shell picked Beaver County, Pa., over West Virginia for its cracker because of air pollution restrictions.
The area around Pittsburgh is also listed as not attaining several air quality standards, and Kessler said tougher new EPA rules have put many communities around the country in a similar position.
Kessler said DEP officials are hoping that new pollution data shows air quality has improved enough for some of West Virginia's non-attainment areas to be taken off that list, but it's not clear how long such decisions will take.
"There are a lot of things that go into that," Kessler said. "We're not sure how it's going to turn out."
But until that decision is made, industry consultant Eli McCoy, a former DEP director, said he would advise any clients looking to build a cracker plant not to consider locating in an area listed as "non-attainment."
"My first advice would be to try to avoid those areas if you can," McCoy said. "It doesn't make it impossible [to get a permit], but it makes your life more difficult."
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.