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Sen. Hutchison addresses refinery situation after storm

By J. Lyn Carl,

Austin, TX –

With predictions of up to $8 billion in damages as a result of Hurricane Rita slamming the coastal area of Texas early today, U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas addressed the impact the storm will have on Texas oil refineries, many of which were in the path of the storm.

Hutchison said she talked to Jefferson County Judge Carl Griffith earlier today regarding the refineries in the Port Arthur area. "I think the damage will be great but the loss of life will be spared," she said.

Hutchison said because Rita did not enter the Houston Ship Channel, she is hopeful refineries in the Texas City and Houston areas will start producing "very quickly."

"They had shut down but I think they can start up quickly now," said Texas' senior senator. "Port Arthur and Beaumont did have major refineries but I believe that ExxonMobil in Beaumont is probably OK and we're going to see how the others are down closer to the coast in Port Arthur."

Hutchison said Texas refineries on the coast represent 25 percent of the refining capacity of the nation. "Had the Houston and Galveston/Texas City area been hit really hard it could have made a huge difference in gas prices for every American," said the senator. "I think we can get up to speed quickly and hope the gas prices don't spike too much."

Gas prices in Texas had inched to the $3 per gallon mark after Hurricane Katrina hit the Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi coast three weeks ago. In recent days, prices had dropped an average of 25-30 cents per gallon. Rita is expected to drive those prices back up.

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