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Plaskett: Refinery Open To Mixing In Greens

U.S. Virgin Islands Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett said St. Croix refinery owners were pushing ahead with restart plans but were open to adding non-petroleum capacity. (Photo: Screenshot of Zoom call)

The sprawling petroleum refinery on St. Croix’s south shore could one day also host wind and solar power plants and other cleaner-energy production, the Virgin Islands’ representative in Congress said Friday.

Delegate Stacey Plaskett said she had met with Port Hamilton Refining and Transportation officials to discuss the refinery’s potential restart and how it fits into the modern emphasis on renewable energy. Green initiatives have come a long way since 2012 when the refinery last regularly operated.

Plaskett said she had recently met with John Podesta, a senior advisor to President Joe Biden, to discuss how the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 could spur clean energy ventures in the Virgin Islands. She took that information to Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. and refinery officials, who were receptive to her ideas, she said.

“How do we use these tax credits to try and really make — particularly on the island of St. Croix — a real hub of clean energy, alternative energy, and the industries that surround that,” Plaskett said in a wide-ranging Zoom interview from her Virgin Islands office. “I have requested and gotten an agreement from the White House. They are going to create a working group and a task force to try to support the refinery, who said they are all in with eventually doing much more innovative things on that site, whether it’s bio-gasses and biofuels, whether it’s wind and solar energy and other forms of energy.”

Port Hamilton, which bought the refinery in late 2021, has pushed for a restart of the troubled plant. The company won a legal battle against the Environmental Protection Agency in July over permits needed to resume refining.

Plaskett said she’d had “quite a few discussions” with refinery officials both before and after the Third Circuit Court Of Appeals’ ruling.

“I’ve told them that my interests are in supporting the development of clean energy on the island of St. Croix but, you know, I understand their immediate revenue needs for refining of fossil fuels. But we as a nation, and particularly as an island territory, need to be concerned about what that’s doing to our environment as well as keeping up to what is actually happening,” she said.

The refinery has plenty of capacity to expand beyond traditional petroleum production to biofuels, she said. It also has the raw acreage for wind and solar, all of which come with potential tax credits that would entice would-be investors. This could lead to sustainable jobs for Virgin Islanders, she said.

“These are jobs that would bring young people and keep them here, as well as bring our minds back here to support those kinds of industries,” Plaskett said.

The refinery recently undertook a vast cleanup of toxic chemicals stored in unsafe conditions at the plant. In its recent history, the petroleum plant has been plagued by legal regulatory actions, fire, and release of oily spray that coated nearby homes, fouling cisterns.

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