PES Refinery Uncertainties Hurt Local Unions

Over the past few weeks diverging futures for the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery have been debated. After operating for over 150 years, the oil refining complex underwent bankruptcy procedures following an explosion on site in 2019.

Since its closure a bankruptcy auction awarded the site and assets to Hilco Redevelopment, according to reports, a Chicago operation specializing in energy infrastructure, who intends to close the site and explore repurposing operations. Hilco Redevelopment beat out Philadelphia Energy Industries (PEI) for the refinery despite a bid $25 million lower than PEI. Now, PEI executives and Pennsylvania union leaders are pressing the President’s assistant on manufacturing and trade policy, Peter Navarro, to put the Administration’s weight into keeping the refinery, the largest on the East Coast with a 350,000 barrel per day refining capacity, open in the interest of jobs and national security concerns.

In the Philadelphia Inquirer PEI executive Philip Rinaldi noted “We think we offer a superior solution from every single aspect that you can think of. We think it’s a better solution for the estate. It’s a better solution for Philadelphia. It’s a better solution for the region.” Navarro was similarly quoted on the issue, “Look, these are great jobs for Philly. This is a way to advance the energy-policy agenda, the economic-policy agenda, and the national-security agenda. So we’d love to see that remain as a refinery.”

To clean up the refinery, Steamfitters Local 420 business manager Jim Snell said the cleanup would need the direction of the Environmental Protection Agency and millions of dollars in funding. The next determination on the refinery’s future – or funeral – will be decided on February 6th.

In the meantime, it is important to acknowledge that Navarro’s comments on the refinery are absolutely true. Facilities like this are absolutely necessary to attain energy independence and this refinery was key to distributing energy throughout the East Coast and also generated thousands of good – paying, family sustaining wages for local workers. Moreover, the refinery was a mainstay of the Philadelphia energy and manufacturing economy for well over 100 years.

The future of this facility should allow PEI to undertake remediation and restoration efforts that will generate jobs and restore the region’s largest oil refinery to ensure energy production meets consumers’ demand.