I moved to St. Croix in 1995 to work at Hovensa on a 6 month contract. I never left. I fell in love with the island, its people, its culture, etc. I lost my job with Hovensa when the refinery first started making cut backs in 2011. The cutbacks and ultimate closure in 2012 cost the Territory hundreds of jobs. If the VI Legislature does not approve an operating agreement allowing for the sale of Hovensa, the facility will stop operating as an oil storage facility, and even more Virgin Islanders will suffer my fate.
In addition to the direct jobs lost, many businesses have been adversely affected by the refinery closure and additional businesses will be adversely affected if the sale does not go through. Reminisce Restaurant and Antilles School both advertised that their closure was a direct result of Hovensa’s shut down. Good Hope and Country Day School merged as a result of the closure. Most of us have friends and family who were forced to leave and find employment elsewhere.
According to a recent notice Hovensa will completely shut down in mid-December due to lack of operational funds unless the Legislature ratifies the operating agreement between our Government and the buyer – Atlantic Basin Refining (ABR). Approving the agreement and allowing the sale to move forward will create hundreds of jobs in the Territory (like my old job at the Refinery), stimulate our economy and provide benefits that would be shared by all Virgin Islanders.
ABR would have to pay the government more than $1.6 billion over the life of the agreement, which has a 22-year term with the option for two additional 10-year terms. ABR would also have to pay the government a $40 million security payment upon the agreement’s ratification. Under the agreement, ABR would also be required to create hundreds of local jobs.
By failing to ratify the agreement between ABR and the Government, and thus shutting down the Hovensa terminal operations, the Senate would force the Territory to rely on gasoline barged over from Puerto Rico. The cost of transporting this fuel would drive up our prices and increase, even higher, the cost of living here.
Finally, the new business plan for Hovensa is to process light, sweet oil from the U.S. mainland, instead of heavy Venezuelan crude, so emissions from the plant will be far less than during operations in the past.
If the Legislature does not ratify the operating agreement between ABR and the Government before the end of the year, more Virgin Islanders will lose their jobs. Inaction by the Legislature will cause the USVI to miss an opportunity to create long term, high paying jobs which will greatly help our economy recover. I call on my fellow Virgin Islanders to do their part to save Hovensa by signing the petition to Save Hovensa at www.hovensasale.com and calling 774-0880 to tell our Senators to approve this operating agreement.
I don’t want to see more people lose their jobs. I don’t want to see more businesses suffer.
Save Hovensa! Save St. Croix!
Barry Guilbeau, St. Croix
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