Above: US Virgin Islands Governor John de Jongh (Photo: OG)
By the Caribbean Journal staff
The United States Virgin Islands is seeking to work toward reopening the HOVENSA refinery, the Caribbean’s largest and the territory’s single-biggest employer.
USVI Governor John de Jongh, in an address this week, said the administration had reached the position following “exhaustive studies and consultations.”
The plan presented to Hess Oil and Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, the refinery’s owners, would mean the reopening of a “more efficient and profitable refinery” on St Croix, according to de Jongh.
“Boiled down to the essentials, our proposals are simple and straightforward,” de Jongh said. “We ask Hess and PDVSA to make plans with us for the reopening of a more efficient refinery working to get the benefits of a lower-cost fuel supply for the refinery that can also be a lower-priced fuel supply for WAPA.”
The governor said that if that proposal was not agreed to, the territory would ask the two companies to “proceed with us to find new owners who will work with us to achieve the result we seek: an operating and efficient oil refinery on St Croix providing jobs and revenues and using a fuel that will also allow us to produce more affordable electricity for our residents.”
HOVENSA has proposed converting the facility into an oil storage terminal.
The closure of the refinery, announced earlier this year, sent shockwaves through the territory, where it has operated since 1966.
Last month, the USVI retained financial firm Duff & Phelps to deal with the closure of the refinery, which has also been the USVI’s primary source of fuel.
In May, the US Department of Labour approved a $7.84 million National Emergency Grant to assist the more than 1,200 workers impacted by the closure.
In testimony to US Senator Bob Casey, chairman of the Joint Economic Committee of the US Congress, de Jongh called the refinery’s shuttering “catastrophic.”
“By now you know, and HOVENSA knows, that the position of this government is that the company cannot simply walk away from the obligations set forth in our contract,” de Jongh said in an address this week. “But I commit to you, the people of the Virgin Islands, that I will work with these owners or future owners of the refinery to build a joint future that benefits us all.”