Governor Calls, Cancels Hovensa Press Conference

A press conference to discuss the sales process of the shuttered Hovensa refinery on St. Croix was called for Monday afternoon, then canceled, by Government House.

Gov. John deJongh Jr. was to have spoken on a telephone conference with media "to provide the public an update on the Hovensa sales process. The governor will make an opening statement and will then be available for questions." That statement was issued early Monday.

Shortly before the 2 p.m. conference was to have started, a second release was issued: "This afternoon’s planned teleconference with reporters to facilitate an update from the governor on the Hovensa sales process has been postponed and will be rescheduled at a later date. The postponement stems from a last-minute change in Hovensa’s position. The brief extension of the Fourth Amendment Agreement requested by Hovensa and approved by the Governor remains in place."

The second statement said a a new date for the briefing will be announced "as soon as possible," and said there would be no additional comment on the matter Monday.

The on-again, off-again press conference was the latest in the saga of the refinery that was at one time described as the largest oil refinery in the western hemisphere, but was closed in 2012 after three years of multimillion dollar losses. The closure devastated the territory’s economy, costing St. Croix more than 2,000 jobs and sending hundreds of families off-island.

When Hovensa closed the refinery, it said it had no intention of selling the facility and would operate an oil storage terminal facility with a handful of employees. The government and the company argued whether that violated the operating agreement, and protracted legal wrangling looked inevitable. But in 2013 the parties came together and negotiated an agreement by which the facility could reopen.

That agreement, called the Fourth Amendment to the Operating Agreement, was approved by the Senate after a rancorous series of hearings and votes. Under the terms of the amendment, the sales process would last until Aug. 15.

On Aug. 15 the company and owners Hess Oil Virgin Islands Corp. and the Venezuelan group, PDVSA V.I., asked for an received a two-week extension for "discussions on aspects of the sales process." The extension was granted by the governor. On Aug. 29 a second extension was sought and granted, and the company invited the governor to a meeting later in the week to discuss the sales process. There was no indication in Monday’s announcements whether that meeting took place.

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