A pending $13.9 million settlement with Sunoco over longstanding property tax disputes on the value of the Eagle Point complex is likely to stay on course, despite the oil giant’s announcement Monday of its sale to Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), according to company officials.
Should the settlement pass muster with the state Local Finance Board (LFB) and get final approval from the West Deptford township committee, it doesn’t appear as though there’s any chance the settlement would be scuttled by ETP’s purchase of the company, Sunoco spokesman Thomas Golembeski said.
“I don't know for sure, but I really doubt it,” Golembeski said.
The Sunoco settlement and a separate, $18.5 million settlement with Coastal/El Paso, the refinery complex’s former owners, passed two weeks ago, after the original settlement with Sunoco was voided by a judge because of violations of the Open Public Meetings Act in how the settlement was handled.
Should the township’s $33 million in refunding bonds to pay for the settlements be approved by the LFB at its May meeting next week, the settlements could be finalized either later this month or at the beginning of June, with a supermajority vote required at the township committee level.
That would cement the settlements ahead of what Sunoco and ETP have said will be the closing date for the $5.3 billion deal to merge the two companies—likely some time in the third or fourth quarter of this year, according to a joint release by the two companies.
The deal would mean Eagle Point would change ownership for the third time in a decade—the fourth time, if you count Sunoco spinning off the tank farm last year to its subsidiary, Sunoco Logistics, L.P.
ETP’s CEO and board chair, Kelcy Warren, called the merger part of the company’s move to become a national logistics company, rather than just a regional oil transportation outfit.
“With this transaction, we make a major move in that direction,” Warren said.
Sunoco and Sunoco Logistics have scrubbed much of the company’s branding from the complex over the past several months, pulling the logo from above the Eagle Point sign fronting Crown Point Road and Route 295, and painting storage tanks flat white, wiping out ten-foot-high logos.
The company has also begun the process of tearing down and scrapping the Eagle Point refinery, which has been shut down for more than two years, with work expected to continue over about two years.
Sunoco officials had told the township they were considering expanding the logistics side of the property, committeeman Sam Cianfarini said during a presentation on the settlements, and Sunoco workers have been welding expansions on to some storage tanks and adding geodesic domes atop at least two tanks near the refinery in recent weeks.
It wasn’t immediately clear if ETP would continue that potential logistics expansion as part of the merger.