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TV Evangelist Drops Oil Refinery Plan

January 25, 2002|From Staff and Wire Reports

Television evangelist and businessman Pat Robertson has abandoned plans to reopen an oil refinery on a 100-acre site in Santa Fe Springs, deciding instead to develop a business park, the city manager said Thursday.

Robertson, who owns CENCO Refining, had planned to reopen the former Powerine refinery, which closed in 1995. Environmental groups had opposed the plan, and city officials have been working with CENCO for several months to explore alternatives.

City Manager Fred Latham said those discussions led CENCO to abandon its plans.

"Instead, CENCO will work with the city and the development community to do a mixed-use business park development in three phases," Latham said.

The development will be similar to a conversion of a refinery owned by Thrifty Oil. The 255-acre site is in the process of being turned into a business park, Latham said.

Communities for a Better Environment, an activist group that has been fighting the refinery in court, said it was pleased by the decision.

"The people have stood up to Pat Robertson and to the city and said no to a refinery near our schools and seniors," group spokesman Jesus Torres said.

Robertson's family trust purchased the Powerine refinery in 1998 using money from the sale of some of the Robertson family broadcasting interests.

Robertson pledged that the refinery would be "the most environmentally friendly refinery in the entire United States."

When the refinery was operating five years ago, residents in Santa Fe Springs, which straddles the Santa Ana Freeway 20 miles southeast of Los Angeles, complained about its effect on their skin and lungs. Michele Davis, a mother of four, said last year that her daughter and husband suffered from severe facial rashes. Other neighbors said black oil spots used to spoil the finish of their cars.

The plant drew heavy fines from air quality agencies and complaints from neighbors before it was shut down in 1995.

Robertson's decision also brings to an end a story from last year's California power crisis. Robertson tried to build a power plant to supply cheaper electricity for the refinery under Gov. Gray Davis' emergency power orders that permitted construction.

The natural gas-powered plant was meant to provide power during hours of peak demand.

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