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St. James Shell refinery shut down "essentially complete", budget cuts loom over parish

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ST. JAMES PARISH – Time is running out at the Shell Refinery in Convent. At the end of the month, the first round of layoffs will take place eventually leaving around 700 without a job if they aren’t relocated. The parish was hoping it wouldn't come down to this.

"It's pretty somber in the community to say the least,” said Parish President Pete Dufresene. “We have a lot of families who depend on this revenue, income from the refinery, a lot of kids in schools and a lot of home mortgages.”

At the end of the month, Shell is expected to cease the first phase of operations cutting ties with hundreds of employees. The loss goes beyond employment.

"It's very harsh what it is doing to the school system,” said St. James Parish Schools Superintendent Ed Cancienne.

Shell is the largest tax contributor is the parish. Every year the school system receives nearly $8 million from the energy giant.

"We will probably have to move forward at the first part of March approaching our board on recommended cuts,” said Cancienne.

There are more than 500 staff currently employed in the school system. That's where the superintendent says the cuts will lay.

"You can cut so much of transportation, so much of maintenance but we really are employee emphasis,” said Cancienne.

Parish officials were hoping another company would swoop in and buy the refinery to avoid the damage. Parish officials are unaware of any prospects at this time, but until Shell does sell, the assessor says they’ll have to pay some form of taxes.

”The land and the buildings are worth ‘x’ amount of dollars, and the machine equipment if they're not being used are worth less. How much less? That's anyone's guess at this point,” said Glenn Waguespack.

Shell did pay what they owed for 2020 in December preventing immediate revenue loss.

"Yes, we're going to be good through 2021,” said Dufresene.

Dufresene says after that, it’s a waiting game. The longer the wait, the more serous talk on making cuts will be.

Some employees may be able to relocate to other refineries. WBRZ asked Shell how many will be relocated and a Shell spokesman said, “While some employees remain on site, the shutdown is essentially complete. It’s too early to comment on the number of employees who might find work within the company. As of today, the refinery remains for sale.”

Shell said the reason for the shut down is to focus on greener, lower carbon energy sources.

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