Philadelphia Refinery to close after fire; modest gas price impact seen

Refinery to close after fire; modest gas price impact seen
By MARC LEVY and CATHY BUSSEWITZ Associated Press
The largest oil refinery on the East Coast will close after a devastating fire last week that set off explosions and damaged equipment, and consumers could see gas prices rise as summer travel hits full swing, officials and analysts said Wednesday.
Philadelphia Energy Solutions has decided to shut down the facility in the next month, affecting more than 1,000 workers, Mayor Jim Kenney said. The company appeared dead set on its decision, despite city officials’ attempts to discuss options, he said.
Gasoline futures prices spiked Tuesday night after the first news of the refinery’s possible closure, and prices remained high Wednesday, according to the markets research company FactSet.
Motorists in the Mid-Atlantic region will likely see modest price increases as more summer travelers hit the road, AAA spokeswoman Jana Tidwell said in a statement.
The refinery has been an important source fueling transportation in the region, far from Gulf Coast refineries, and “at least temporarily, it’s going to require some logistical shifting that could come at a cost,” said Kevin Book, managing director at Clearview Energy Partners.
But while the amount of gasoline that will be lost from the refinery is sizable, it can easily be made up by imports from Europe or elsewhere, said Jonathan Aronson, a research analyst at Cornerstone Macro.
“We’re not expecting any major shocks to retail gasoline (prices),” Aronson said. Consumers are more likely to feel gasoline prices increase due to the price of crude oil, which has been rallying in recent days, he said.
A Philadelphia Energy Solutions spokeswoman did not respond a request for comment.
Repairing the facility could be very expensive, and the cost was probably the final nail in the coffin for an already financially troubled facility, Kenney said.
“It’s a sad day,” Kenney said, “and I’m really worried about the safety of the facility, the safety of the environment and the workers.”
The company has recently struggled financially, showing a declining cash balance in the six months through March while its long-term debt grew, according to reports the company files in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware.
The 150-year-old oil refining complex processes 335,000 barrels of crude oil daily, according to PES. The refinery turns the crude into gasoline, jet fuel, propane, home heating oil and other products.
It started as a bulk petroleum storage facility in 1866 and began refinery operations in 1870.
The company emerged from federal bankruptcy court last year after restructuring its debt, leaving its majority ownership in the hands of investment banking firms Credit Suisse Asset Management and Bardin Hill.
Friday’s fire at the complex broke out early in the morning, and video showed an enormous orange blast bursting into the sky.
It set off three explosions felt miles away as the fire plowed through a tangle of pipes carrying fuel across the complex, the company has said. It happened at the Girard Point refinery, one of two at the PES complex in south Philadelphia.
The fire erupted in a tank containing a mixture of butane and propane, a fire official said.
Investigators haven’t been able to go to some areas at the complex because they haven’t yet been assessed by a structural engineer, the city fire commissioner’s office said Wednesday.
United Steelworkers, which represents the refinery workers, is investigating whether the company had insurance coverage for a destroyed alkylation unit, Ryan O’Callaghan, the president of Local 10-1, told The Philadelphia Inquirer. It would push the company to rebuild the unit, he said.
“It appears they’re cashing the check and heading for the doors,” he said.
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Levy reported from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Bussewitz reported from New York.

Beth Chapman, co-star of Dog the Bounty Hunter TV Shows Dead at the age of 51 from Cancer

Beth Chapman, co-star of bounty hunter reality TV, dies
By JENNIFER SINCO KELLEHER Associated Press
HONOLULU (AP) — Beth Chapman, who co-starred with her husband on the “Dog the Bounty Hunter” reality TV show and later spoke out against some bail reform measures as leader of a national bail agents’ organization, has died.
A family spokeswoman, Mona Wood-Sword, said in a statement that Chapman died early Wednesday at Queen’s Medical Center after an almost 2-year battle with cancer. She was 51.
Chapman was diagnosed with throat cancer in September 2017 after getting a nagging cough checked out. A tumor was removed and she was declared cancer-free. But in November 2018, she was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer.
“This is the time she would wake up to go hike Koko Head mountain,” her husband, Duane “Dog” Chapman, posted on Twitter early Wednesday. “Only today, she hiked the stairway to heaven. We all love you, Beth. See you on the other side.”
On Friday, Chapman had difficulty breathing and passed out momentarily, Wood-Sword said. She was taken to a hospital and doctors put her in a medically induced coma in a Honolulu hospital to spare her pain while treating her, Wood-Sword said.
Born Alice Elizabeth Smith in Denver, Chapman had lived in Honolulu since 1989. In 2006, she and Duane Chapman, the self-proclaimed world’s best bounty hunter, married during a sunset ceremony at a Big Island resort after being together for 16 years.
“I’ve already been cuffed and shackled by Beth anyway,” he told The Associated Press at the time.
The wedding took place two days after the death of Duane Chapman’s 23-year-old daughter, Barbara Katy Chapman, who died in a car accident near her home in Fairbanks, Alaska. The couple decided to go forward with the wedding to celebrate her life. The wedding was featured in an episode of the A&E series “Dog the Bounty Hunter,” which followed the duo’s exploits in apprehending people who have avoided arrest warrants.
In 2007, Hawaii lawmakers honored the couple for their work capturing criminals.
“It’s kind of extraordinary to be called a crime fighter,” she said at the time. “I’ll have to go home and get my Wonder Woman outfit.”
Duane Chapman gained fame after he nabbed serial rapist and Max Factor heir Andrew Luster in Mexico in 2003.
“Dog the Bounty Hunter” was canceled in 2012. They later starred in Country Music Television’s “Dog & Beth: On the Hunt.”
She was later elected president of the Professional Bail Agents of the United States and opposed some bail reform measures nationwide. She boasted of being the youngest ever to receive a bail license in Colorado at 29. That record was beat by her step-daughter Lyssa Chapman daughter who became licensed at age 19, she said.
Funeral services are expected to be held in Honolulu and Colorado, Wood-Sword said.

Democrats Hope Mueller Testimony Will Have ‘Profound Impact’

WASHINGTON (AP) — The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee says he expects special counsel Robert Mueller to have “a profound impact” when he testifies before Congress on July 17, even though Mueller has said he won’t provide any new information.

Mueller’s unusual back-to-back testimony in front of the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees is likely to be the most highly anticipated congressional hearing in years, particularly given Mueller’s resolute silence throughout his two-year investigation into Russian contacts with President Donald Trump’s campaign . Democrats negotiated for more than two months to obtain the testimony, hoping to focus public attention on the special counsel’s 448-page report that they believe most Americans have not read.

“I think just if he says what was in the report and says it to the American people so they hear it, that will be very, very important,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler told reporters Wednesday. “Whether he goes further than that, we’ll see.”

Nadler said he thinks Mueller will be a compelling witness given the nature of the report, which detailed Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and reviewed several episodes in which Trump tried to influence Mueller’s probe. He said he believes the hearing will have a “profound impact” because many people haven’t read the report and don’t know what’s in it.

It will also be the first time Mueller has responded to questions since he was appointed special counsel in May 2017. Throughout his investigation, Mueller never responded to angry, public attacks from Trump, nor did he ever personally join his prosecutors in court or make announcements of criminal charges from the team. His sole public statement came from the Justice Department podium last month as he announced his departure, when he sought to explain his decision not to indict Trump or to accuse him of criminal conduct.

He also put lawmakers on notice that he was not eager to testify and did not ever intend to say more than what he put in the report.

“We chose those words carefully, and the work speaks for itself,” Mueller said May 29. “I would not provide information beyond what is already public in any appearance before Congress.”

Those remarks did little to settle the demands for his testimony. The two committees continued negotiations that had already been going on for weeks, saying they still wanted to hear from Mueller no matter how reluctant he was. The two committees announced Tuesday that he’d finally agreed to come under subpoena, and that they had issued the subpoenas that day.

“When you accept the role of special counsel in one of the most significant investigations in modern history, you’re going to have to expect that you’re going to be asked to come and testify before Congress,” said House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff.

The committee chairmen said there will be two hearings “back to back,” one for each committee, and they will also separately meet with Mueller’s staff in closed session. The Judiciary panel will go first, then Intelligence.

Nadler would not give details on the negotiations or why the subpoenas were needed. He just said “we reached a point where we believed that if we issued a subpoena he would obey it.” The Justice Department declined to comment.

Trump himself simply tweeted, “Presidential Harassment!” He followed up on Wednesday morning in an interview with Fox Business Network, saying, “It never ends,” then reiterating his grievances against the way the probe was conducted.

In the report issued in April, Mueller concluded there was not enough evidence to establish a conspiracy between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia, which was the original question that started the investigation. But he also said he could not exonerate Trump on obstruction of justice.

Democrats say it is now the job of Congress to assess the report’s findings. Almost 80 Democrats have already announced that they believe an impeachment inquiry is needed, or around a third of the caucus. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has preferred a methodical approach that includes testimony from witnesses like Mueller. Supporters of opening the impeachment process hope that his open testimony will help galvanize their effort.

Democrats are likely to confront the special counsel on why he did not come to a firm conclusion on obstruction of justice, seek his reaction to Trump’s criticism and ask for his personal opinion about whether Trump would have been charged were he not the commander in chief. Republicans are likely to ask him about how the probe was conducted, and whether there was bias against Trump at the Justice Department.

Republicans have criticized Democrats for their continuing investigations of the president. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., questioned why they would still want to hear from Mueller after the lengthy report was issued. “He said he didn’t want to talk to us anymore, didn’t he?”

But Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the Judiciary panel, has said he has no objections to Mueller’s testimony.

“May this testimony bring to House Democrats the closure that the rest of America has enjoyed for months, and may it enable them to return to the business of legislating,” Collins said.

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Associated Press writer Michael Balsamo contributed to this report.

Warren in the Spotlight as Democrats Gather for 1st Debate

WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s task as the sole top-tier candidate in the first Democratic presidential debate is to harness the momentum surrounding her campaign to prove to voters she has what it takes to defeat President Donald Trump. The 10-candidate debate is Wednesday at 9 p.m. Eastern on NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo, with another debate Thursday. Trump tells Fox Business Network the Democratic candidates are “a very unexciting group of people” but he’ll watch because it’s part of his life now.

GOP-Held Senate Threatens to Reject $4.5 Billion Emergency Border Bill Passed by House

WASHINGTON (AP) — The GOP-held Senate is poised to swiftly reject a $4.5 billion emergency border bill passed by the House. The Senate has instead teed up a vote on a similar but bipartisan alternative as Congress tries to deliver aid to the southern border before the government runs out of money to care for thousands of migrant families and unaccompanied children. The vote will put pressure on the Democratic-controlled House to simply accept the Senate measure and send it to President Donald Trump.

Philadelphia Oil Refinery Complex Set To Close Due to Last Week’s Fire, Explosions

UNDATED (AP) — The owner of the largest oil refinery complex on the East Coast is telling officials that it will close the facility after a fire last week set off explosions and damaged equipment there. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement Wednesday that Philadelphia Energy Solutions has informed him of its decision. Kenney says the more than 1,000 workers there will be impacted. The 150-year-old oil refining complex processes 335,000 barrels of crude oil daily.