Politicians, union leaders, oil executives, and economic-development officials vowed Wednesday to do all they can to find buyers for three area refineries slated to close next year.
Organized by Rep. Patrick Meehan (R., Pa.), the group met in the morning at the community center in Marcus Hook - the small Delaware County town bookended by refineries - just one day after ConocoPhillips announced that it would sell or close its nearby Trainer complex in six months.
ConocoPhillips' decision came three weeks after Sunoco Inc. said it would exit the refining business, with plans to sell or close its South Philadelphia and Marcus Hook refineries in July. At risk are more than 2,000 union and nonunion jobs.
The meeting, which was closed to the media, was a first step "to come together as a delegation of interested parties and stakeholders on behalf of the workers and the communities that are going to be affected by this," Meehan said.
Even as it acts locally, the group is mindful that it needs to think globally, given the pressures Sunoco and ConocoPhillips have cited as reasons for the looming closures: cheap imported gasoline, less restrictive environmental rules overseas, and lower U.S. demand for fuel since the recession.
Meehan and Reps. Bob Brady and Chaka Fattah, both Democrats who represent Philadelphia districts where Sunoco runs its biggest refinery, said they recognized those challenges, but they also stressed the strengths they see in the plants and workforces that have processed crude oil here for decades.
Meehan said executives had told him that some interest had been expressed by potential buyers, but he did not know who they are.
"I would suspect, in due course, they will have as many people through here, kicking the tires, as they can get," he said.