Motorists on the east coast can expect more pain and Pennsylvania's economy can count on a punishing blow if Sunoco and state officials are unable to find a buyer for the third of three Pennsylvania refineries to close. Sunoco's Philadelphia refinery is scheduled to close by July.

One Sunoco refinery in Marcus Hook, PA and another ConocoPhillips refinery in Trainer, PA have already closed. The three represent more than 700,000 barrels per day of oil capacity.

According to a recently released report produced by the Pennsylvania Dept. of Labor's Center for Workforce Information and Analysis, the economic impact of the three refineries closing is much worse than first estimated.

According to Kathleen Carey, business reporter with the Delaware County Daily Times, conflicting reports surface and one minute there's optimism that a buyer will emerge and at other times there's less certainty. "Information on this changes hourly," she said earlier today.

What is clearer, however, is the severity of these closings. Carey reported that the direct and indirect job losses tied to the three refineries could reach 36,000. And, the economic hit to the region is now beleived to be $560 million according to the Dept. of Labor report.

In addition to 2,000 direct job losses, the refineries indirectly impact jobs with wholesalers, food service, real estate, trucking, automotive services, accounting, legal, healthcare, machine repair, retailing, security... and many other industries.

But, there may be some encouraging news coming. Bloomberg Business news reported that John Catsimatidis, owner of the Warren, PA United Refining Co. may be interested in the Sunoco Philadelphia refinery.

C. Alan Walker and Steven Kratz, officials in the PA Dept. of Community and Economic Development have also said they're optimistic that 2 of 3 refineries can be saved.

When we reached Kratz by phone today he maintained his poker face.
"We are cautiously optimistic that there will be an opportunity to maintain two of the three facilities in some fashion, keeping in mind that these are privately held assets and we are limited in our role as government. We can't get into details."

He said only that there are ongoing discussions, and those, I'm guessing, are the reason for the cautious optimism he expresses.

Kratz explained that he is restricted in what he can say due to non-disclosure agreements the state has with the (oil) companies. "They ultimately control that and make the final decisions," he added.