- Associated Press - Saturday, February 8, 2014

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - U.S. Sen. Mark Begich has asked Gov. Sean Parnell to take a “personal interest” on the environmental issues contributing to the planned closure of a North Pole refinery.

Flint Hills Resources announced this week the refinery would cease gasoline production on May 1 and the production of jet fuel by June 1.

A company vice president said the refinery is closing because of a difficult refining market and uncertainties over future soil and groundwater-cleanup costs that began under the refinery’s former owner.

“Rather than waiting for a reaction, I urge you and your leadership team to take a personal interest in the contamination issue,” Begich wrote in a letter to the governor, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported (https://is.gd/e05sRo ). “The quicker a settlement protecting the interests of the State of Alaska and Alaskans can be reached, the better chance we have of making this refinery productive again.”

The decision to close the refining operations will cost about 80 jobs.

Parnell has previously said that discussions with the plant’s owners led him to believe market prices were the primary cause of the closure, and he supported by the state’s efforts to pursue cleanup on the refinery’s sulfolane spill.

Flint Hills completed its purchase of the refinery in April 2004. It was aware of soil contamination but thought it was confined to the ground beneath the refinery. Sulfolane, a liquid used in refining oil, was later detected beyond refinery property, including trace amounts in the city of North Pole’s two wells.

Even if it’s too late to persuade Flint Hills to reopen the refinery, Begich said movement on the environmental issue would help attract new ownership.

“The state needs to move forward so a new owner won’t be hesitant to come in,” he told the newspaper in a follow-up interview. “The environmental issue needs to be resolved.”


Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, https://www.newsminer.com

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