When Limetree Bay Energy CEO Jeff Rinker met with the press Tuesday he had no “big announcement.” Refinery officials had not been getting information to the public as well as they could have been, he said, and this was an opportunity for people representing the residents to ask questions.
The news in July for the refinery has been bad. On July 12 it filed for bankruptcy in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas.
The move came the same day the U.S. Justice Department filed a complaint in V.I. District Court on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency alleging that the St. Croix refinery presents “an imminent and substantial danger to public health and the environment.”
Rinker told the gathered press that the refinery officials had no alternative but to file for bankruptcy. He said investors had quit putting money into the refinery after the EPA ordered it shut down for 60 days and “it became clear EPA would not let the refinery open after those 60 days.”
He said the EPA was “doing its job.” And the two incidents – Feb. 4 and May 12 – where reports said oil rained down on neighboring homes, should never have happened.
However, he did appear to defend the refinery from recent criticism that the management had not responded to the complaints and concerns of neighboring residents. He said representatives from the refinery visited around 100 homes affected by the first incident and about 2,000 homes affected by the second incident. He said out of the 2,000 homes visited after the second incident about 1,000 have either agreed to a settlement or no effect from the incident was found.
A group of community activists at a July 14 press conference, announcing the result of a survey they had taken, asked for a criminal investigation into Limetree’s action. The group said many residents who experienced ill effects from the incidents had not received any satisfaction from Limetree.
Rinker said Tuesday he could not comment on specifics concerning allegations of ill effects and compensation because the matter was now in the courts.
He said there was a lot of information circulating in the community that was misinformation, but he would limit himself to one area of correction. He said he has read Limetree was not measuring its emissions. He said that “is definitely not true.”
“We are certainly measuring our emissions,” he said.
He said the refinery had no choice but to terminate 271 employees this month and the rest of the employees will be gone in September.
However, he added, the 110 employees at the terminal should stay on even though that operation faces challenges. He said the refinery was the terminal’s best customer.
He said that during bankruptcy proceedings a buyer of the refinery would be sought. He said he was hopeful a buyer who would operate the refinery would be found, but even if one were found the process for the refinery to reopen would be at least a year.
He said that billions of dollars had been invested in reopening the refinery “but despite our best efforts, we were not successful.”
Limetree was ordered by the EPA to shut down for 60 days on May 12 and undertake corrective measures after multiple major incidents resulted in significant air pollutants and oil releases, including a large accidental flare that sprayed oil over some 137 homes.
On June 21, Limetree announced that it was closed indefinitely due to “severe financial constraints.”