Frank Burns

State Rep. Frank Burns

A local state legislator has taken a stand against a fellow Democrat’s public opposition to more petrochemical plants in Western Pennsylvania.

Rep. Frank Burns, D-East Taylor, wrote a letter inviting ExxonMobil Chairman and CEO Darren Woods to explore Cambria County for new industry opportunities.

Burns referenced a recent speech by Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto at the Pittsburgh Climate Summit where he said he’d oppose more petrochemical plants in the region. The Pittsburgh Democrat was disturbed by the news ExxonMobil is looking into development of a large plastics plant in Beaver County, where Shell is already building a $6 billion facility to make plastic from natural gas.

“You may have heard Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto announce his opposition to the construction of additional petrochemical cracker plants in Western Pennsylvania,” Burns wrote to Woods. “Let me assure you: Mayor Peduto doesn’t speak for all of Western Pennsylvania. While he may not want the area to become ‘the petrochemical/plastics center of the United States,’ I am committed to fighting for jobs and economic growth in my county.”

Burns noted that legislation approved last summer would allow up to 375 acres for Keystone Opportunity Zones in the county. The KOZ designation gives new industry substantial tax incentives to locate in the region.

“As ExxonMobil considers locations for a new petrochemical plant, I invite you to visit Cambria County, Pa.,” Burns wrote. “I stand ready to work with you and elected officials from both parties to make a deal that benefits both ExxonMobil and the hardworking residents of our region.”

The county’s only active KOZ includes about 100 acres above Minersville, Schuylkill County, Johnstown Area Regional Industries President and CEO Linda Thomson confirmed. Thompson said she could not discuss Burns’ invitation or a possible petrochemical plant development.

Cambria County President Commissioner Tom Chernisky said he was not aware of Burns’ invitation to ExxonMobil, and he has not been following the controversy surrounding Peduto’s comments.

“All I can tell you is Cambria County is open for business,” Chernisky said. “We are open-minded.”

Randy Griffith is a multimedia reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 532-5057. Follow him on Twitter @PhotoGriffer57.

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