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City manager remains hopeful amid concerns of pause to Motiva plant expansion

While rumors swirl that Motiva Enterprises has put a stop to a multi-billion plant expansion in Port Arthur, city officials say they have not been made aware of any such plans.

“They haven’t informed the city,” City Manager Ron Burton told Port Arthur Newsmedia on Tuesday. “They always show good faith.”

A representative of Motiva addressed City Council members in early August, more than two weeks after the Wall Street Journal said the Saudi Aramco-owned company had suspended the $6.6 billion project, and said unforeseen circumstances have forced the company to shift focus in a multitude of areas.

“Our industry has seen an extreme volatile market over the past year and it’s really been unprecedented financial times for the refiners in our area and across the globe,” Claire Jackson told council members. “We have taken some economic steps to weather the storm and focus on conserving cash in this tough environment.”

On July 19 it was reported Motiva withdrew documents filed in 2018 requesting certain tax breaks from the Texas Comptroller’s Office.

But Burton said the company has been transparent about its need to reassess financial plans.

“This coronavirus — no one saw it coming,” Burton said. “We have to be fair and look at the global economy.”

During the Aug. 3 meeting, Jackson also addressed the lack of progress in the renovation of the Adams Building and Federal Building, which were purchased in 2017 to house office buildings and contractors that would be necessary for the planned expansion. Construction on the historical buildings were expected to be completed by the beginning of 2020, but have since been pushed back a year.

Councilmen Kenneth Marks and Thomas Kinlaw both questioned the projects, as Port Arthur is “waiting to develop downtown based on some of the promises that were made in the past to this council and the City of Port Arthur,” Kinlaw said.

Jackson said they were still awaiting state and historical designations to continue renovations on the Austin Avenue buildings.

“The relations with the Port Arthur community is very important to us and we plan to be a part of Port Arthur for decades to come,” she told them.

Motiva did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday by Port Arthur Newsmedia. However, Burton said even if the company has halted expansion plans, he believes it will only be temporary.

“These people are in business to make a profit and I do understand,” he said. “We just have to be patient and see what happens.”