With only a rare note of optimism, the senators at Wednesday’s Senate Planning and Environmental Protection Committee meeting weighed in on the announcement that the Hovensa refinery on St. Croix was closing.
“The news is clearly devastating to many Hovensa employees who worked there most of their lives,” said Sen. Louis P. Hill, “but it will impact the entire government and people of the Virgin Islands.”
Hill, who chaired the meeting, put the economic impact of the refinery’s closing at billions of dollars.
According to Sen. Patrick Simeon Sprauve, 2,000 people will lose their jobs.
“Banks, mortgages, hotels, car rentals – it’s going to affect the entire community,” he said.
Sprauve, Hill and others at the meeting touched on several areas that are sure to be impacted. Hill said that the V.I. Water and Power Authority will have to find a new source of fuel. Sprauve said that health care will be one of the first things people won’t be able to afford when hard times hit.
Others discussed the fact that closings such as this one are a global issue. Hill said that many criticized Hovensa, but he hopes now that the plant is closing, they will stop the “rhetoric.”
Sen. Ronald Russell said he saw a “ray of hope” in that this catastrophe will bring the community together.
“We need a collective effort,” Russell said.
Hill said basically the same thing, but he didn’t view it so positively.
“We’ll have to put our back to the wheel to resolve this one,” he said.