Plaskett, Bryan Support EPA Order for Refinery Cleanup

Port Hamilton Refining and Transportation, as seen from a residential community. (Source photo by Linda Morland)

A recent order from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency calling for the safe clean-up of the St. Croix oil refinery was met Monday with support from V.I. officials, who said it was a pathway to moving the re-opening of the facility forward.

The EPA order, part of a consent agreement, requires Port Hamilton Refining and Transportation, which bought the refinery early this year, to remove chemicals used in petroleum refining: ammonia, liquified petroleum gas, amines, and hydrogen sulfide.

Charles Chambers, Port Hamilton’s principal owner, said the company welcomed the environmental protection agreement and was already working to implement its stipulations.

In a statement Monday, Delegate Stacey Plaskett said after a meeting with the EPA that the agency’s order came as a result of the EPA’s concern for the health of the residents of St. Croix.

“As in previous meetings, EPA Regional Administrator Lisa F. Garcia informed me that the EPA’s primary concern is the health of Virgin Islanders and ensuring that our communities are protected,” Plaskett said. “She further stated that PHRT is being held to the same safety standards as other refineries and industrial facilities throughout the country.”

Plaskett said EPA’s leadership, along with the White House and other federal partners, should “actively” work to determine what can be done to provide resources to help repurpose St. Croix’s south shore, which also houses the refinery.

“Given the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to actively transitioning from fossil fuels to clean energy, aiding underserved communities, creating good paying jobs — which squarely fits the needs of the St. Croix community — this appears to be an ideal time for local and federal government along with private sector to utilize the enormous grants available in both the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act to create an entire new economic and industrial system on the islands. Although the initial news of the permit requirement may seem to be negative, this situation presents our territory with a transformational opportunity,” Plaskett said.

Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. also called the order “welcome news,” as it “creates a pathway to safely restoring this key economic driver in our community.”

“While this announcement only relates to clean-up on the site, we have made great strides in our resolve to achieve the necessary balance between protecting the health of St. Croix residents working in and living near the refinery and the territory’s economic development through finding a path to the progressive reopening of the refinery,” Bryan said. “And, we remain focused on working with the EPA and Port Hamilton to achieve that balance safely.”