Two thirds of the respondents in a survey of Virgin Islanders support the sale of the Hovensa refinery to Atlantic Basin Refining and want the Senate to approve the proposed operating agreement when it meets Friday. A petition urging passage amassed more than 1,000 signatures in two weeks.
The Save Hovensa Campaign, which launched a Facebook page on Nov. 26, has garnered more than 1,000 signatures on its online petition urging passed of the agreement; it has 488 “likes” on Facebook.
The petition on the Change.org website was posted Nov. 26 by Barry Guilbeau. Guilbeau was not available to comment Tuesday.
"The buyer before us may not be the ‘Big Oil’ buyer many of us hoped for, but ABR is a sound option for the Virgin Islands," the online petition says. "At the Senate hearings and during their radio interview, ABR has shown that they have a reasonable plan, are committed to hiring Virgin Islanders – including former Hovensa employees, and are committed to the restart of the refinery. ABR is a much better option than letting Hovensa run out of cash and close its gates for good."
The petition notes that Hovensa officials have begun the process of closing the oil storage facility it has operated since closing the refinery in 2012. Hovensa has said it will not put any new funds into the operation.
It also points out that Hovensa is no longer required to continue the sales process, which was outlined in the "Fourth Amendment to the Operating Agreement." That amendment expired in August.
Of even greater concern to the petitioners, they point out that by shutting down their operation they will no longer be able to maintain their EPA operating permits.
"Because of the costs, uncertainties and time delays in obtaining federal air permits, the chances of the facility ever operating again are greatly diminished once those permits are lost," it says.
Chism Strategies, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy and political consulting group conducted the survey. Brad Chism confirmed that his group conducted the poll, but did not respond when asked the name of the client who commissioned it.
The survey was conducted by telephone calls to residents of the Virgin Islands and found that 67 percent of the respondents consider the ABR agreement "very important," and a full 85 percent consider it important.
In its key question, the survey was posed as follows: "If approved, economic studies show that the sale and re-opening would create 2,000 jobs in the territory, add $1 billion to the Virgin Islands economy, bring $164 million in tax revenues to the Virgin Islands government and lower gasoline prices in the territory. If not approved, none of these benefits will be realized, the refinery will permanently close and additional jobs will be lost forever. Knowing this, should the USVI Senate approve an agreement for the sale and re-opening of the Hovensa refinery? "
Two thirds of the respondents, 66 percent, said yes, they want the Senate to approve the deal; 11 percent said no; and 23 percent said they were not sure or didn’t know.
The respondents were all Virgin Islands residents, 47 percent from St. Croix, 49 percent from St. Thomas, 3 percent from St. John and 1 percent "other." Sixty-five percent identified themselves as African American or Afro-Caribbean, 13 percent as Hispanic, 12 percent as Caucasian or white, 3 percent as Asian and 7 percent as other.