GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - Changes are in the works at Chevron's Pascagoula Refinery, and its new plan needs approval from the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources. The reason? It would require the destruction of 70 acres of wetlands.
The Bureau of Wetlands and Marine Life is considering granting Chevron a permit to use parts of Bayou Casotte for a massive expansion. The Department of Marine Resources held a public hearing at the Gautier Public Library Monday night to discuss the project.
Chevron hopes to make three different types of improvements. They want to expand their marine terminal, build new tanks, and add a new laydown area for future building projects. Most of the area used will not be wetlands. The marine terminal project will also require 20,000 acres of material to be dredged.
Chevron's Mississippi Public Affairs Manager, Stephen Renfroe, said these improvements are vital to the refinery's efficiency and flexibility.
"It's critical to continue to invest in it, to make it up to date, maintain competitiveness," he said. "And that's what Chevron has done in the past, and continues to do, as evidenced by what we are talking about tonight."
The Director of the Bureau of Wetlands and Marine Life said the approval process is important, not just to this project, but to others down the road.
"If we let Chevron do this project, other companies will be able to do similar projects," she said. "So we look and see if the project that we're about to approve will set a negative precedent for other companies to come in and do similar things in the long run."
The company plans to mitigate wetland loss by restoring damaged wetlands along the Escatawpa River. Chevron plans to restore two acres for every acre used in the expansion.
While the expansions would increase efficiency at the refinery, it wouldn't have a dramatic impact on gas prices in the United States. It would, however, help increase production.
"We're doing everything we can, within the constraints, to increase gasoline production," Renfroe said. "And by increasing supply, it will have an effect on the price as well."