I had a chance to sit down with two of the three Republican candidates seeking seats on Delaware County Council last night.
Incumbent Tom McGarrigle and John McBlain made one thing clear. The biggest issue facing the county is jobs, along with the economy and taxes.
They probably don’t have to remind the people in the lower end.
They are in a struggle for a way of life after being struck by lightning twice – announcements three weeks apart by Sunoco and then ConocoPhillips that would seek buyers for their refineries in Marcus Hook and Trainer. And the grim reality that if no buyer comes forward, both iconic plants will be shut down.
More than 1,000 jobs hang in the balance, and another 20,000 that likely depend on those two plants one way or another.
The Republicans did offer a hint of some good news. Both believe there is a very good chance a buyer can be found for at least one of the plans, most likely the Sunoco facility because of its intricate infrastructure and network of pipelines. The Republicans are interested in possibly tying into the Marcellus shale boom in the state, utilizing the Sunoco plant as gateway to that natural gas bonanza.
In the meantime, we have some news on a couple of other fronts today concerning the refineries.
Both Sunoco and ConocoPhillips got tax-free loans from the county Industrial Development Authority for work at the plant since 1990. The loans are not public funds, and are meant to stir economic activity. Should the plants be closed, the companies would still be on the hook for repaying the loans.
Workers continue to push an online petition urging elected officials to take a stand in the efforts to save the plants, or at least find new buyers. Our editorial on the petition drive can be found here.
McGarrigle and McBlain indicated they will be meeting with state officials soon concerning the future of the two plants.
Call it Job One, especially when it comes to the looming county elections.
Jobs, protecting them and creating more, are clearly on the front burner.