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Natural Gas Company's Long Push For $6.4B Facility In Chester Gaining Momentum Despite Impasse Over Proposed Site

Plans for a massive facility for the production and export of liquid natural gas in Southeastern Pennsylvania have created a flashpoint in the economically downtrodden city of Chester.

An entrance to the warehouse complex at 800 West Front St. in Chester, Pennsylvania, seen in 2019

Penn LNG, a subsidiary of Penn America Energy, has for years been seeking a site on the Delaware River for such a facility, which it estimates would cost about $6.4B, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. One particular site has drawn the company's interest, according to a representative from the Local Steamfitters 420 trade union: 800 West Front St. in Chester.

That address is home to a 1M SF distribution center owned and operated by third-party logistics firm GWSI. But company owner Michael Gerace has no interest in selling, nor has he heard from Penn LNG in years, he told the Inquirer, which noted that he was bothered at the suggestion the property is still reportedly under consideration.

A representative from Penn LNG declined to identify any specific sites it is eyeing when reached by the Inquirer, only saying that the company is targeting sites on the Delaware River and that the city of Chester is a viable option.

Penn LNG has met with Chester Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland several times to discuss the project. The mayor has expressed public support for it as a potential boon to the city, the Inquirer reports. Chester has been under the financial management of a state-appointed financial receiver for years due to its poor economic health.

Political support from both Kirkland and local trade unions has taken on a more urgent tone in the months since Russia invaded Ukraine, sending energy prices through the roof worldwide and creating a massive supply-demand imbalance for liquid natural gas specifically. Gas liquids, which are used in the production of other petroleum-derived products, are already produced in Pennsylvania and exported through the port in Marcus Hook, Chester's neighbor to the southeast, since the completion of the Mariner East pipeline in February.

Mariner East's construction was the source of sustained protest and multiple criminal and civil cases, as leaks wrought environmental damage elsewhere in the state.

With the former PES refinery in Philadelphia undergoing a transformation into a hub for other industrial uses, environmental activists are likely to treat a multibillion-dollar plant as a step in the wrong direction, the Inquirer reports. But the potential for jobs and an economic catalyst for a destitute city could be too much to overcome.