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San Patricio County grants Exxon tax abatements

An architect's rendering of what Exxon Mobile's steam cracker plant would look like in San Patricio County. Courtesy illustration

Tax abatements for a proposed ExxonMobil steam cracker plant were approved 4-1 by the San Patricio Commissioners Court on Monday, March 20. The Gregory-Portland school board will take up the same topic on Tuesday, March 21. According to a group opposed to the plant, the school board will most likely grant the abatements now that the commissioners have approved their own set of incentives.

“It is very important to show up to this [school board] meeting and wear red,” announced a meeting notice on Facebook by the group Portland Citizens United. “You do not have to speak, but please join us there.”

The company submitted an application for a tax abatement for its $10 billion plant to the commissioners in 2016. It also applied for a tax limitation from the Gregory-Portland Independent School District. Four sites are under consideration for the plant: Portland, Victoria and two in Louisiana. In partnership with Saudi Arabia Basic Industries Corp., or SABIC, Exxon Mobil said it plans to announce its decision by March 31.

The county commissioners meeting had to be moved to the district courtroom because so many people showed up to speak, both for and against. Most opponents wore red T-shirts with #NoExxon on the front. They argued the plant would upset the quality of life of residents. They added it will be too close to the local high school and damage property values of homeowners.

Proponents pointed to the economic security it would bring to the area in terms of high-paying jobs.

“This plant will benefit the entire county,” said Foster Edwards, president of the San Patricio Economic Development Corp.

“Why are you giving away our money?” asked Errol Summerlin, a Portland resident referring to the tax abatement. “They are coming here anyway.”

Edwards countered that no commitment has been made on the part of Exxon or SABIC.

“It’s the way the game is played now,” he said, adding that Exxon is a good corporate partner that regularly gives back to the community.

The company does seem to have its sights set on the Coastal Bend as Summerlin suggested.

“San Patricio County is the preferred site,” a SABIC spokesperson told the Houston Chronicle in January. “The project is advancing study of the San Patricio site.”

Commissioners voted 5-0 to establish the proposed building site of 1,300 acres at FM 2986 and U.S. 181 as a reinvestment zone. The vote was 4-1 on the incentive package with commissioner Nina Trevino as the single opposing vote.

The plant should generate $22 billion in state economic gains during the construction phase and $50 billion in state economic gains during its first six years of operations. It is expected to create more than 600 new permanent jobs that pay an average of $90,000 a year. A five-year buildout would also create 11,000 construction jobs.

The ethylene created at the plant would be used to feed three derivative units producing monoethylene glycol and polyethylene. Monoethylene glycol is used in latex paints and automotive coolants and antifreeze. It is a building block used to create various forms of plastic. Polyethylene is used for film, packaging, bottles, pipes and containers.

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