A new state bid to create more tax-break zones could help revive three struggling Philadelphia-area refineries. Keystone Opportunity Zones seek to attract investment to areas in need of a boost by offering reduced state and local taxes. Dominic Pileggi, Senate majority leader from Delaware County, introduced a bill that would allow the state to add more zones. His policy director, Erik Arneson, says Pileggi had the refineries in mind when he crafted the bill.
A Sunoco refinery in Marcus Hook has closed, while the company’s South Philadelphia plant will be shut down. A Conoco Phillips plant in Trainer, Delaware County is idle, too. “I don’t think anybody knows at this point what the future is for those sites,” says Arneson. “But having the ability to potentially have them in a Keystone Opportunity Zone, where there are significant tax benefits … could be a vital tool in having as many jobs as possible retained at those sites.”The revisions make more room for very large projects that involve major investments and lots of jobs. More that 900 people received pink slips when the Delaware County refineries were idled earlier this month. All three plants are for sale. Earlier this month, Pileggi emerged from a closed-door meeting with the oil companies saying they needed to be more forthcoming about their plans.
“It is frustrating when you’re not able to get information that is necessary to make really educated decisions,” said Pileggi’s spokesman, Arneson. “What we’re doing here with this legislation is planning for potential eventualities, one of numerous possible outcomes.”
Lawmakers say they hope to know more in January about prospective buyers for the refineries.