No news is bad news for Marcus Hook refineries

A delegation of elected officials sat down Monday for a closed-door meeting with representatives of Sunoco and ConocoPhillips to talk about two idled oil refineries in Delaware County.

When downsizing businesses and elected officials sit down together, things rarely go smoothly.

And discussions of the two refineries on the Pennsylvania/Delaware border that the companies have put up for sale were true to form. Leaving the meeting, lawmakers and labor representatives insisted the companies had not done enough to answer their questions.

“Through the many years as we made collective bargaining agreements with them, made concessions with them, to make sure that they made money,” said Pat Eiding, president of the Philadelphia AFL-CIO. “And now, quite honestly, they’re not being as open as they could be with us. We need them at the table, as open as possible.”

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Eiding said there would be no holidays for refinery workers, but that “Christmas” would come the day they knew their jobs would survive.

Eiding, along with politicians from Pennsylvania and Delaware, said they were there to help. They clearly want to direct the sale in a way that supports regional priorities.

Sunoco began shutting down its Marcus Hook refinery earlier this month, citing low demand and prices. As reported, Sunoco says it has lost $800 million since 2009 operating the facility.

U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz said the delegation delivered a message that, “We want you to sell to someone who can actually keep these refineries alive, keep these jobs here and help make sure that oil refinery’s a part of the rich assets that we have and helps keep oil flowing and jobs here.”

Schwartz said the companies seemed determined to make a corporate decision on their own.

“There are limits,” to what government can do, said U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey. “But there are things we can do. I think one of the things that’s been a real struggle for these refineries and other refineries has been the cost of complying with EPA regulations.”

Representatives of Sunoco and ConocoPhillips said the companies still don’t have some pieces of information and cannot discuss others while they’re in talks with buyers. They could not confirm reports from the politicians coming out of the meeting that they expected more news on the sale of the plants in January.

Rich Johnson of ConocoPhillips said the company had not heard the frustrations expressed by the representatives after the meeting. He said the company is making a concerted effort to keep local stakeholders informed.


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