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HOVENSA to improve pollution controls

More snow up in the North east, some places have not seen the ground all month with all the snow
They are talking about Snow fatigue in New York City and Philadelphia.

It's 79° Fahrenheit  23.9 Centigrade in Crown Bay St. Thomas,
74% humidity. Clear Skies
Wind out of the East at 10 mph
Water temp: 77° in Charlotte Amalie  St. Thomas
We had Point 12 inches of rain in the last 24 hours.
Doppler radar shows: Clear Skies
Satellite Photo Shows: Clear Skies

The national weather forecast calls for cloudy with scattered showers... partly cloudy in the afternoon. Highs 84. East winds 10 to 20 mph. Chance of rain 40 percent.

Cruise Ship News
At Havensight  Dock Norwegian Jewel
At Austin Monsanto Marine Terminal: Ruby Princess and Emerald Princess

At the top of the news on Thursday January 27

HOVENSA must improve pollution control with 700 million dollars in improvements. In a 180 page consent decree, HOVENSA agreed to implement new and better pollution controls.  A spokesperson said “We will make sure the consent decree is fully implemented  to further support our efforts to operate responsibly, protect the environment and make some of the cleanest air in the US - even cleaner. The consent decree has been years in the making. It is not a result of the recent emissions problems. HOVENSA will pay a 5 million dollar fine, a quarter million goes to the Virgin Islands Government, they will post a 4.8 million dollar fund for environmental projects on St. Croix and the company will pay 700 million in repairs and upgrades to the refinery to improve its pollution controls. Governor John DeJongh praised the settlement calling it good for the Virgin Islands.   

Environmental Protection Agency representatives appeared before the Senate Committee yesterday and briefed senators on the consent decree.  The Senators were considering a bill to require DPNR to create air quality monitoring systems around HOVENSA.

Senators also had WAPA CEO Hugo Hodge on the hot seat.  They want to eliminate the Levelized Energy Adjustment Clause saying the cost of oil is a burden to the people of the Virgin Islands. Hodge says WAPA is trying to improve overall efficiency and capture more energy from the fuel it uses. Senator Hansen wanted to know why WAPA charges 31 cents per kilowatt hour while the national average is 7 cents per kilowatt hour?

More from HOVENSA along with the consent decree, they are closing some of its processing units, cutting production from 500,000 barrels a day to 350,000 barrels of oil a day. The west side of the refinery will be closed, and with smaller production, they need fewer workers – so they are freezing hiring. A turnaround planned for the west end of the refinery has been postponed. The company does not anticipate any effect on the price of gasoline in the territory. The units being closed are older and smaller and less efficient than newer equipment and mostly produce home heating oil. HOVENSA will focus efforts on producing gasoline.

How do we get affordable health care in the Virgin Islands – the Governor’s healthcare reform implementation  task force convened on Tuesday – lots of topics on the table – expanding health insurance, Medicare expansion, more coverage for pregnant women and babies and electronic health records. The main topic is the creation of a health insurance exchange or marketplace for the Virgin Islands. we have 36,000 uninsured residents and most rely heavily on the hospital emergency rooms for medical care.

Governor John DeJongh asked for a tax increase in the hotel tax. He also called for a fee for time-share guests of $10 per day. Now the Dept. of Tourism is explaining why...  The proposed room tax increase is a 2 percent increase in the room tax rate to 10 percent, representing the first increase in more than 17 years.  The funds would all go to the Tourism Advertising Revolving Fund for marketing and advertising campaigns to attract visitors here.    

Commissioner Nicholson-Doty said,  “leaving our room tax rate unchanged for 17 years has placed us at a competitive disadvantage. Other destinations outspend the U.S. Virgin Islands. While the price of advertising has gone up; 16 percent for cable TV, 7 percent for network television and 2 percent for magazines.  

If our room tax is 10% - what is the room tax elsewhere? In Puerto Rico it is 24%, 15% in Dominican Republic, 10% in Bahamas and Aruba has 9.5%. In New York the room tax is 14.75% , it is 13% in Miami, 12.5% in Orlando and 12% in Las Vegas. 15% in Chicago. Our 8% sounds small. A 2% increase means $6 million dollars in new funds.  

This is amazing – our Dept. of Tourism spends 17 million in promotion – but for comparison, the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas spends $15 MILLION to promote just one hotel and Sandals Resorts spend 21 million in their promotion efforts.
Oh, Dept. of Tourism announced that American Airlines will increase non-stop jet service to Henry Rohlsen Airport and VEKA from Miami starting in June.  The additional service will add 2,600 more seats per week. St. Croix will have two daily non-stop flights and St. Thomas will have three daily non stop flights from Miami.

Senate President Ronald Russell gets to appoint two members of the Public Services Commission – Now he has chosen Senator Louis P. Hill and Senator Alicia “Chucky” Hansen to be the senate members of the Public Services Commission . Both are non-voting members.

Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs has the lottery for ALL spaces in Vendors plaza this evening  at 6:00 PM at the DLCA Conference Room in Subbase. Vendors MUST be present at the lottery and only the person whose name appears on the application may attend the lottery.  6:00 PM tonight at DLCA Conference Room

The Virgin Islands Police Department Traffic Enforcement Bureau officers on St. Thomas inform the motoring public that the top portion of Raadets Gade, from Back Street to Main Street, will be closed to traffic from 9 p.m. Wednesday, January 26. The road closure is expected to last through Friday, January 28.

 11 State Health Insurance Program is having a town Hall meeting on St. Croix Town Hall Meetings this morning at American Legion Hall in Frederiksted. 9:30 AM to 11:30 AM. This is for Medicare beneficiaries, caregivers and family members. Call 714-4354.,

St. Croix at LBJ Housing, the Waste Management Authority says work on the LBJ Force main will begin today and continue for ten days to February 5th. They will shut down the pump station and install a new 24 inch force main, replace the flow meter and clean the wet well. During the shutdown they will pump sewage over long reef.

World renowned percussionist and drummer Dion Parson will visit the UVI Music Center for a conversation with interested individuals at noon today. Parson performed this past November with his 21st Century Band at UVI’s Reichhold Center. Parson is involved in mentoring youth and teaching the fundamentals of jazz. The conversation is free and open to the public at the UVI Music Choir Room. noon today.

And Michael Bolton is coming to the Reichhold Center for the Arts  on Saturday for a one time concert. The musician is known for his emotionally powerful love songs.  The show is called One World, One Love. He plays to sold out theaters all over the world. Tickets are available from the Reichhold Center for the Arts

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