U.S. House sets date to discuss Northeastern refinery closures

NEW YORK Fri Feb 24, 2012 12:06pm EST

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NEW YORK Feb 24 (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives will hold a hearing on March 19 to look at how the closure of three refineries in the Philadelphia area that represent half of the refining capacity in the Northeast could impact national security.

U.S. Representative Patrick Meehan, a Republican who represents the Philadelphia area, said on Friday that the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence would examine the implications of Sunoco Inc closing two refineries and ConocoPhillips closing a third.

U.S. Senator Bob Casey has also called for a probe on the impact the refinery closures will have on prices for gasoline and diesel. No date has been set for those hearings.

Refineries on both U.S. coasts are at risk for closure as high crude costs cut into profit margins for refining companies.

The East Coast refineries run light, sweet crude oil imported from Africa and the North Sea that is priced at a premium to the U.S. West Texas Intermediate benchmark.

Sunoco, which owns two of the refineries, has said that it has lost money running the plants and the refining profit margins are not enough for them to keep the plants going.

ConocoPhillips, owner of the third plant, is also not interested in East Coast refinery operations as it works to separate itself into two different companies -- an upstream Conoco and a downstream Phillips 66.

The three refineries are with in a 12-mile (19-km) radius in southeastern Pennsylvania. The USW has tallied as many as 2,500 jobs will be lost directly related to the plant closures with tens of thousands ancillary and service related jobs also at risk once plants close.

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