US House to examine shutdowns at three Pennsylvania refineries

15 February 2012 21:08  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--The House Homeland Security Committee soon will hold a hearing on refinery shutdowns in Pennsylvania and elsewhere and whether those closures pose fuel shortages and a risk to US national security, a House leader said on Wednesday.

Congressman Patrick Meehan (Republican-Pennsylvania) told a press conference that the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, which he chairs, will hold a hearing within weeks on how three refinery shutdowns in his state “could increase the risks to domestic critical infrastructure and threaten supply shortages”.

Meehan was one of six members of the Pennsylvania congressional delegation – including Senators Bob Casey (Democrat) and Patrick Toomey (Republican) – who spoke to a Capitol Hill meeting of some 400 refinery workers and union leaders.

The Pennsylvania union officials and refinery workers were in the halls of Congress on Wednesday to lobby for some sort of federal intervention to reverse the refinery shutdowns and reopen the plants.

United Steel Workers (USW) union officials said that closure of the three refineries puts about 2,500 workers off the job.

Sunoco’s 178,000 bbl/day Marcus Hook refinery and ConocoPhillips’ 185,000 bbl/day Trainer refinery, both near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, already have shut down.

Sunoco’s 335,000 bbl/day Philadelphia refinery also will be shuttered if no buyer is found within a few months.

The companies said the shutdowns were mandated by poor economics for the three facilities and continuing operational losses.

Meehan noted that the three Philadelphia-area refineries represent about 50% of total refining capacity in the US northeast, meaning that that high-density population and commercial region now will be increasingly vulnerable to supply disruptions and fuels price increases.

He said that closure of the three Pennsylvania refineries is part of a larger concern.

“More than 30 US refineries have closed in the last decade,” he told the union crowd.

“My hearing will help us understand the homeland security consequences of our declining domestic refining capacity, both in terms of threats to critical infrastructure and our dependence on imports from unstable parts of the world,” he said.

Meehan said he would schedule the hearing as soon as possible.

Paul Hodges studies key influences shaping the chemical industry in Chemicals and the Economy

By: Joe Kamalick
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