Barrar Leads Examination of Sunoco and ConocoPhillips Facility Closures


On Jan. 10, Rep. Stephen E. Barrar (R-Chester/Delaware), majority chairman of the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, led a hearing at the State Capitol to examine hazardous material safety concerns and emergency response capabilities of the staff at three oil refineries slated for closure in southeastern Pennsylvania.  Representatives from the refineries, as well as officials from Delaware County and Marcus Hook Borough, were on hand to testify.    

HARRISBURG – Rep. Stephen E. Barrar (R-Chester/Delaware), majority chairman of the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, led two public meetings in Harrisburg Tuesday to discuss the complex issues involved in the closure of three Sunoco and ConocoPhillips oil refineries in southeastern Pennsylvania.


“The impacts of these closures will have a ripple effect not only on the economy of the region, but also on the entire East Coast,” said Barrar.  “We are concerned about the loss of potentially 20,000 jobs in the area, and these closures could also affect the price of home heating oil in Scranton, the cost to fill your car’s gas tank in Pittsburgh, and the price of shipped goods throughout the state if the charge for diesel fuel is increased.”


During a morning meeting, chaired by Barrar, House members from across the Commonwealth heard remarks from John Kulik, executive vice president of the Pennsylvania Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association.


Kulik described the difficulty federal regulations have placed on the industry and how these regulations have led to the need for a specific gasoline blend in Pittsburgh.  This specific blend represents only 3 percent of the domestic gasoline market, and Kulik expressed concern about the availability of this blend if refineries in Marcus Hook, Philadelphia and Trainer are permanently shuttered, considering the blend’s small share in the global market.


Fuel from these three refineries provides for much of the Commonwealth’s petroleum needs, and supplies many areas of the East Coast.  Western Pennsylvania receives its fuel directly from southeastern Pennsylvania via pipeline.


Jim Savage, with the United Steel Workers Local 10-1, and Denis Stephano, with the United Steel Workers Local 10-234, told how the facilities in southeastern Pennsylvania stepped in to fill the gap when Hurricane Katrina knocked out the refinery capacity in the Gulf for several months in 2005.  They painted a picture of how these closures will leave no margin for disruption in production without the possibility of gasoline, diesel and home heating oil shortages.


During an afternoon hearing of the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, the public safety aspect of the closures was the focus.  The committee heard testimony from ConocoPhillips representatives David Erfert and Colin Franks, as well as John Pickering, Sunoco senior vice president of manufacturing.


“The House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee is holding this hearing today because it has oversight for Act 165, which is our Hazardous Materials Reporting and Response Act, as well as Title 35, which is our Health and Safety Act,” said Barrar.  “We need to know what types of hazardous materials are currently on site and what might remain as the facilities are closed down.  We also need to know the emergency response plans they have in place, and how these closures will impact the surrounding emergency service providers.”


Erfert explained how the Trainer facility had been through a deinventory process and now only houses approximately 85 percent of the product and chemicals that were once on site.  He said this has increased the safety of the facility, which is still fully staffed.


When asked about the scenario at Sunoco’s Marcus Hook refinery, Pickering said its facility also is appropriately staffed and is still minimally in use.  He said hydrocarbons have been greatly reduced, which has led to safer conditions there.


Ed Truitt, Delaware County director of emergency services, and James Schiliro, mayor of Marcus Hook Borough, also testified regarding their concerns for local emergency responders. 


Schiliro said the Marcus Hook Fire Department does not have the experience or equipment to handle a major refinery fire. 


Each facility currently has a fully-staffed emergency compliment with industrial firefighting equipment and systems.  Although facility operators say there will be round-the-clock emergency coverage, the surrounding community is concerned about safety.


Truitt is awaiting updated hazardous material information and response plans from the two Delaware County facilities so the county and state can assess response needs during an emergency.  Because the facilities are reducing the amount of hazardous materials on site, the law requires that a new plan must be developed to ascertain any hazardous material threats that still exist at the refineries during the shutdown phase.


During the hearing, industry professionals testified that they are still in the process of seeking qualified buyers for the facility, but dismantling the refineries and demolishing the facilities are possible if a sale is not completed before a set deadline. 


“The best case scenario is that Sunoco and ConocoPhillips will find buyers for these facilities, saving thousands of jobs, ensuring the continued and reliable supply of product, and allaying safety concerns,” said Barrar.  “I am somewhat relieved to know that these refineries are still under the watch of trained safety staff, but I will continue my oversight and cooperation with emergency personnel in the surrounding communities until I am certain there is no threat to public safety.”


More information about Barrar can be found at or

State Representative Steve Barrar
160th District, Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Contact: Nicole Wamsley

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