The South Philadelphia oil refinery that caused a series of massive explosions last week will close within the next month, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney confirmed.
"I am extremely disappointed for the more than [1,000] workers who will be immediately impacted by this closure, as well as other businesses that are dependent on the refinery operations." Kenney said in a statement. "The City is committed to supporting them during this difficult time in any way possible."
The announcement comes less than one week after the inferno rattled entire parts of the region, reigniting a debate among city leaders and residents who worried about the safety of the 150-year-old refinery, which is considered the largest single source of pollution in the area.
Kenney said that the city will convene a group of "quasi-governmental organizations" to look at the economic repercussions of shutting down the refinery. The Philadelphia Fire Department and the city's managing director will also lead efforts to determine the future of the site.
City Councilwoman Helen Gym, one of the most vociferous voices calling for the refinery to close, said via Twitter that the "city has a lot of work to do to prioritize clean energy and sustainable futures for everyone."
"The 1,000 plus workers at the refinery and residents deserve a real transition plan," she tweeted.
Around 4 a.m. Friday, a mixture of butane and propane ignited a fire that caused three explosions. They could be seen and felt across the city and suburbs.
The fire burned for two days until plant staff were able to turn off a valve that sent fuel into an alkylation unit. City fire officials and the refinery's private fire brigade let the fire burn to avoid the uncontrolled release of explosive gas into the atmosphere.
Philadelphia Fire Department Commissioner Adam Thiel said most of the fuel burned was similar to what fuels gas barbecue grills.
A joint investigation between his fire marshal's office, city police and the ATF is underway, Thiel said. While a fire is no longer burning at the site, the incident has yet to be placed under control because investigators are unable to tour the entire affected area.
A representative from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection said that agency plans to inspect the large gas storage tanks nearby to ensure they were not damaged by the fire.
The refinery complex, which is split into two refineries, dates back to the 1800s and is the East Coast's largest — producing gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and other fuel. It is the single largest cause of particulate pollution in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia Energy Solutions emerged from bankruptcy protection in October 2018. At the time, the limited liability company owed the local and state government more than $3 billion. The amounts were negotiated down to tens of thousands of dollars.