After HOVENSA Closure, US Virgin Islands Governor Seeks Federal Assistance


Above: USVI Governor John de Jongh, Jr speaks with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Assistant Secretary Anthony Babauta before a meeting in Washington (Photo: OG)

By the Caribbean Journal staff

US Virgin Islands Governor John de Jongh is seeking federal help to deal with the impact of the closure of HOVENSA oil refinery.

De Jongh met with representatives of a number of federal agencies Friday in Washington to discuss the he facility, which ceased production last week. It was the largest Caribbean oil refinery and St Croix’s single-biggest employer.

“We spoke with our federal partners about how they could immediately help us cope with the current crisis, and we set the stage for future assistance in developing a more robust and diverse economy,” de Jongh said following the meeting. “I was encouraged by the feedback we received.”

The refinery’s closure, which de Jongh has called a “catastrophic decision,” meant the loss of jobs for 1,200 refinery workers and 950 employees of 17 subcontracting firms.

“This meeting was an opportunity to articulate our primary concerns regarding lost revenues, decline in the gross territorial product, job losses and the impact of all these economic challenges will have on our ability to meet the health care, education and job growth needs of our people,” he said.

The territory expects a total loss of $100 million in tax revenues from the refinery’s closure.

HOVENSA announced the closure Jan. 18. It had been in the territory since 1966.

The Washington talks were hosted by the Department of the Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs and the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.

Without a connection to any larger power grid, the territory obtained all gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and propane from the refinery.

De Jongh said he was working to solicit support from the federal government to develop a power grid connected to Puerto Rico. The talks also considered the possibility of natural gas as a long-term solution.

“In the long run, we need the whole community to be engaged and involved and think about where we are headed as we deal with the short-term crisis,” he said.

Popular Posts