Session Adjourns, But Chevron Issue Could Send Lawmakers Back To Jackson

The 2006 Legislative Session is in the books, but a late bill that would benefit Chevron Pascagoula, made for some tense moments.

The Senate scrambled to avoid a Special Session by passing a bond bill for a highway that would be part of a proposed expansion at Chevron's Pascagoula Refinery. The House adjourned without taking it up, so a Special Session now seems likely.

Chevron Spokesman Steve Renfroe took turns speaking with House and Senate leaders Friday. He hopes lawmakers will agree to borrow $22 million to widen to the road to the Pascagoula refinery.

The state already has plans to widen the road in 2010, but Chevron wants to move the project up. Right now, it would conflict with construction for two major projects they're considering.

Senator Tommy Robertson says he introduced the project only learning about Chevron's plans on Wednesday. Some House leaders say they were blind sided by such a major project coming up so late in the session.

"Some of that seems a little petty.[It's] such an important issue. Let's get over the pettiness and deal with the issues before us, so we won't have to come back for a Special Session," Robertson said.

A Special Session would cost taxpayers $35,000 a day. Some lawmakers expect to be back anyway to appropriate federal money for Hurricane Katrina Recovery.

"There's talk that we'll be back for a Katrina Special Session. This is another issue the governor could put in the call," Rep. Carmel Wells Smith.

While Chevron is hopeful for state support, Renfroe says it will not influence whether their considered expansion projects move forward.

"If this happens today or in the next few days, that would be great. If it doesn't, we may have some other options we can go to," Renfroe said.

Governor Haley Barbour's office has not announced any plans for a Special Session. If one is called, Barbour will set the date and agenda.

by Wendy Suares