Sunoco is idling a refinery in suburban Philadelphia, and the company says about 490 layoffs are expected to be completed by March.
Sunoco CEO Lynn Elsenhans said Thursday that deteriorating market conditions are forcing the move at the facility in Marcus Hook.
“Market conditions have deteriorated significantly and the outlook for both motor fuel demand and refining margins remains weak,” said Elsenhans. ”Our retail and logistics businesses are performing well, but given the negative realities of the Northeast refining marketplace, we need to
accelerate the time-line for idling our Marcus Hook processing units.”
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The Philadelphia-based fuel company announced in September that it was getting out of the refining business. It said two area facilities would be idled by next July if they couldn't be sold.
But Elsenhans says in a statement that the Marcus Hook refinery is being idled immediately because of the weak outlook for both motor fuel demand and refining margins.
The idling process began immediately and was expected to be completed early next year, according to a company spokesman.
Sunoco says about 100 employees will be placed elsewhere within the company. Sunoco's refinery in Philadelphia continues to operate.
But the closer of the Marcus Hook refinery and the job losses hit hard.
U.S. Reps. Patrick Meehan and Bob Brady released a joint statement Thursday:
“This is devastating news. Our first concern is for the workers and their families. For our community, closing the gates of the Marcus Hook refinery is unthinkable. Most of us know a friend or family member that works at our local refineries and it has been this way for generations.
“Over the past several months, we have worked together through the regional alliance to do all we can to find any possible buyer for the three Philadelphia refineries. That work will continue, and we won’t be deterred. Federal, state and local leaders will exhaust every possibility, and ensure Sunoco is moving aggressively to find a buyer, to get Marcus Hook up and running again.”
"I never thought in my career I'd see them close," said Eric Hendrzak, who worked at the refinery for 22 years before being laid off. "We came in five o'clock and they said 'everybody stay, we have an announcement.' We thought they were going to buy us lunch or something."
"We're not numbers, we're not something on a spreadsheet," said Kevin Quinn, who worked at the refinery for 19 years. "We're actual people and there's real families being impacted by this."
The layoffs will also impact the local economy of Marcus Hook which received more than half of its $2.9 million budget from the refinery.
"They pulled the rug right out from under us," said one resident. "24 days before Christmas. They not only devastated this town but half the region. They could've put this off at least until past Christmas."
Sunoco says union workers will receive wages and benefits for 90 days and that laid-off employees will get severance and job placement counseling. The fact that the refinery is up for sale also means that another company could possibly come in and rehire the laid off workers.
But for now, workers like Eric aren't depending on mere possibilities. They're taking action, shopping for jobs even if they have to travel across the country to get them.
"I got three young kids at home," said Eric. "I don't like doing that but I'll do it if I'm going to lose my home."