Both Port Hamilton Refining and Transportation and Government House released statements a day after a surprise announcement by West Indies Petroleum Limited that the Jamaica-based company had no properties at the Limetree Bay refinery in St. Croix.
“The Limetree Bay Refinery was successfully purchased earlier this year by Port Hamilton Refining and Transportation, as evidenced by bankruptcy court filings. WIPL has not acquired title to the refinery. The refinery remains the property of Port Hamilton. Port Hamilton was the legal entity used to acquire the Limetree Bay refinery in St. Croix and it is also a separate legal entity from WIPL,” according to Port Hamilton’s statement titled “Refinery Ownership Clarification of Limetree Bay”.
While local and federal authorities referred to West Indies Petroleum and Port Hamilton Refining as joint bidders and winners of the refinery’s bankruptcy auction in December, WIPL issued a statement on Wednesday denying any stake in the refinery. .
Thursday’s statement from Port Hamilton Refining also noted that “all relevant authorities which approved and regulated the sale of the refinery are fully aware of the above circumstances in which the transaction was entered into. With the sale of the Limetree Bay Refinery being completed by Port Hamilton, we would like to again thank all the stakeholders who contributed to the success of the transaction.
Following the release of this statement, Port Hamilton Refining representatives did not immediately respond to questions from the Daily News, including a request for information about the company’s directors.
The statement followed one from Government House which noted that “the government of the Virgin Islands takes the management of the Limetree Bay refinery very seriously” and which regurgitated legalese.
“The sale of the refinery was completed in accordance with the procedures and legal processes of the US Bankruptcy Code. Details of this sale are publicly available in the filing of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas, Division of Houston, Case 21-32351,” according to the Government House statement.
Additionally, he noted, the court approved the sale on Dec. 21, “pursuant to the terms of the asset purchase agreement attached to the order. West Indies Petroleum Limited (WIPL) along with Port Hamilton Refining and Transportation LLLP (PHRT), has been named as the successful bidder on the order and is party to the asset purchase agreement as the buyer.
“Title of the assets purchased passed to Port Hamilton upon closing, pursuant to the deed of sale attached to the asset purchase agreement. So, while WIPL and Port Hamilton were purchasers under the agreement, documents filed with the court indicate that title to the assets and contracts belonged to Port Hamilton from the outset. All of this information has been and continues to be public records.
However, it was unclear why Government House waited an entire day after WIPL’s statement to respond. The Daily News received the statement from WIPL at 7:59 a.m. Wednesday. Richard Motta Jr., spokesman for Governor Albert Bryan Jr., was later contacted for comment but never returned messages. On Thursday – given the Bryan administration’s boasts of transparency – Motta was contacted for comment after the Government House and Port Hamilton statements were released. Motta again did not respond.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency is responsible for overseeing refinery operations and enforcing the Clean Air Act to protect the environment and public health and safety. To date, the agency’s website lists the owners of Limetree as WIPL and PHRT.
As recently as March 22, nearly three months after the purchase, the EPA issued a press release stating that the agency had “sent a letter to West Indies Petroleum Limited (WIPL) and Port Hamilton Refining and Transportation, LLLP (PHRT) – the new owners of the former Limetree Bay refinery in St. Croix – advising them that, based on information currently available to the EPA, there are strong indicators suggesting the refinery needs Obtain a Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) permit prior to any potential start of refining operations.
And as of Thursday evening, the EPA’s website also states that “the EPA is continuing its work to protect the community near the refinery, now owned by West Indies Petroleum Limited and Port Hamilton Refining and Transportation, LLLP.” .
The EPA released a statement on Wednesday saying only that officials were consulting with the US Department of Justice, but provided no further response to Thursday’s statement from Port Hamilton Refining.
The refinery previously closed in 2012 after years of economic turmoil compounded by violations of the Clean Air Act. The brief but disastrous restart in February 2021 led to several environmental contamination incidents that left at least 1,200 nearby homes covered in oil particles and the layoff of hundreds of refinery employees and contractors.
The EPA issued an emergency shutdown order on May 14, 2021, forcing Limetree to cease refining operations after repeated flaring and oil spraying contaminated drinking water and crops.
The US Department of Justice filed a lawsuit on behalf of the EPA in July 2021, saying officials at the Limetree Bay refinery had publicly downplayed serious accidents and chemical releases that endangered the health of residents. of Sainte-Croix in December, two months before the official restart of the refinery. .
U.S. Magistrate Judge Emile Henderson III stayed all proceedings in the case until August 22, according to court records.