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Sunoco to idle Marcus Hook refinery in 90 days

December 2, 2011 6:49:00 AM PST
Sunoco has announced it is idling the Marcus Hook refinery in Delaware County.

Sunoco's Marcus Hook and South Philadelphia facilities were expected to survive until the summer, but Marcus Hook looks like it won't make it beyond winter.

It has been said throughout the years and over generations that if you get a job at the Marcus Hook refinery, you've got a job for life. But that might not be the case, come July.

It is the plant that keeps more than vehicles running, and is the lifeline of the Philadelphia area. Now it is just months away from shutting down.

"I've seen this happen to the community before, but not to this nature," said Jerry Dugan. "This is probably the worst I've seen."

Sunoco started the layoff process for 490 workers at the Marcus Hook refinery on Thursday.

Employees of the more than 100 year old plant are grief stricken.

"I'm 55, and I'm kind of devastated because I don't know what's going to happen with me and my family," said Steven Clarke. 'I've got five boys and three grandchildren."

Workers are criticizing Sunoco's CEO, Lynn Elsenhans, who said that market conditions have deteriorated significantly and the outlook for both motor fuel demand and refining margins remain weak.

Back in September, a Sunoco spokesman said the company's refineries in the Northeast have lost nearly $800 million in the past two years.

Geography is part of the problem. Refineries in the middle of the country have better access to cheap crude oil, while Sunoco here imports more expensive crude from Africa.

"I think she's known from day one what she's going to do and she's done it," said Dave Miller.

Union President Dave Miller says they knew this day would come, but they thought they had more time, and they didn't think it would happen around the holidays.

He says he was promised a six month closure notice, but over the next 90 days, workers will be let go, starting immediately.

"We can make money, you just have to have the right people driving the train," said Miller. "I think we've been mismanaged for so long. I think corporate greed has a lot to do with this."

Some businesses and many people have built their homes in Marcus Hook and surrounding tri-state communities because of the refinery.

Often called the Cornerstone of Pennsylvania, many believe that a substantial portion of the town's budget is based on the plant and the area will begin to crumble once it shuts down.

"I can't imagine how this is going to affect everybody in the region," said Miller.

Sunoco says that the Philadelphia refinery will continue to operate, but if it cannot find a buyer for the refinery, it will close no later than July.

As for Marcus Hook, Congressman Patrick Meehan and Bob Brady released a joint statement, saying "Federal, state and local leaders will exhaust every possibility to ensure that Sunoco is moving aggressively to find a buyer and get Marcus Hook up and running again.

100 salaried employees will either be transferred to other jobs within the company or offered severance packages.


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