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Fuel worries

Published January 12. 2012 05:01PM

State Rep. Doyle Heffley says if three oil refineries in southeast Pennsylvania close, it could result in spikes in gasoline prices and create potential job losses.

Heffley addressed concerns regarding the potential shutdowns of Sunoco's Philadelphia and Marcus Hook refineries and ConocoPhillips' Trainer location during a hearing called by Rep. Stephen Barrar, chairman of the Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee.

"While the potential refinery closures would affect the entire state, I'm primarily concerned that they would create potential job losses in the transportation industry in Carbon County, as well as cause instability in energy prices and a loss of tax base," Heffley said. "I am unhappy about these potential closings and would like to do what we can to prevent them."

Together the three refineries can process 700,000 barrels of crude oil per day, accounting for nearly half of the refining capacity on the East Coast and about 4 percent nationwide.

Heffley said the loss of that supply could cause spikes in gasoline prices and make the East Coast more dependent on gasoline imports.

There are currently five refineries along the East Coast, down from 12 refineries along the East Coast about a decade ago.

During the hearing, Barrar pointed out that dozens of southeastern Pennsylvania businesses rely on the refineries as their key source of survival. He said the ripple effect caused by the closure of the refineries could result in the loss of 20,000 jobs.

"Reducing refinery capacity in Pennsylvania, and the entire nation, gives other areas of the world, like India, more control over our nation's oil shortage and increases our dependency on other countries," Heffley said.

Both Sunoco and ConocoPhillips are seeking buyers for their refineries.

If ConocoPhillips does not find a buyer by March 31, refinery manager David Erfert told House members, then the refinery faces closure and possibly demolition.

The ConocoPhillips refinery employs about 400 people, but layoffs begin as early as next week.

"Many of my colleagues and I hope these refineries will ultimately remain open under new ownership or partnerships," said Heffley. "I plan to continue working with my fellow representatives to help address ways to avoid these closures, while ensuring the safety and well-being of all residents of Carbon County and Pennsylvania."

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