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Valero oil refinery worker tests positive for coronavirus

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EMPLOYEES at Valero Oil Refinery have been sent emails confirming a member of staff has tested positive for coronavirus.

It is understood that the worker, who we are not naming, was send off site on Friday (Mar 20) and has tested positive for Covid-19.

This would make this the third confirmed case of coronavirus in Pembrokeshire.

The remaining refinery workers have been put on shift work of four days on and four days off – a change implemented in recent days to segregate the workforce into two separate groups. Valero employs 1200 workers and contractors at the Pembroke site.

A contractor, who asked not to be named, told The Herald that he was extremely concerned that non-essential work was going on at the oil refinery.

He said: “Yesterday, there was white line painting, grass cutting, non-essential electrical work being carried out – in my mind this is just crazy – essential workers could be kept on site and other things can wait.

He added “The number of people on site could be substantially reduced and we could still run a safe site. We have been told that areas where the person who has the virus has been have been deep cleaned – but morale is still low. A lot of people are not happy with the way the outbreak is being handled.

“There are many communal areas, and we all have to push through the same turnstile to get to work. I am very worried, and so are a lot of the other workers on site.”

Refinery spokesperson Stephen Thornton said: “Valero strongly believes in maintaining the privacy of our employees and contractors, particularly their health information.
“As such, we will not publicise individual cases of COVID-19.
“Our pandemic response in the case of a positive test, however, include compliance and cooperation with Government and medical guidelines, social distancing, deep cleaning or sterilization of affected areas, communicating with employees’ in “close contact” with the affected employees followed by implementation of appropriate quarantines, communication with our employees at the site, and, most importantly support of all affected employees.
“All facilities on the Milford Haven Waterway are taking similar precautions.
“Valero holds the health and safety of its employees and the wider community as its highest priority.”

This was similar to the statement issued by Valero spokeswoman Lillian Riojas last week. An employee at Valero Energy Corp’s Meraux, Louisiana, refinery tested positive for the coronavirus on March 19.

Refinery operations, for the time being, remain largely unaffected although many in the industry see run cuts and even closures on the horizon.
“Sooner or later they should shut down,” a products trader said in an interview with industry website S&P Global.
Analysts agreed that refineries will need to curtail their throughput as demand slows.
“Run cuts are expected in Europe due to the demand effect from the coronavirus outbreak,” S&P Global Platts Analytics said in a note. However, “refiners have not explicitly announced the degree of these cuts”.
The reason refiners are putting off run cuts for the moment is because the recent sharp falls in crude prices has supported margins. But, as one crude trader said, “what margin exists does not matter if there is not a buyer for products”.
“Globally, we are looking at a pretty significant reduction in short-term oil demand, probably down 3-4 million b/d for several months,” according to Stephen George, chief economist of energy consultancy KBC, who also saw the potential for “a general trimming of runs across the board in Europe”.

News

Council’s Planning Committee approves ambitious dockyard plans

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL’s Planning Committee this morning (Tuesday, May 18) approved an application for the construction of a new marine engineering project at Pembroke Dock’s Royal Dockyard.
The plans, vociferously opposed by local heritage groups, passed unanimously.

The matter will now go to the Welsh Government, which has reserved its position on the scheme’s approval.
Committee members expressed the view that the balance between heritage and economic development were balanced, with strong views expressed on either side. They decided the balance of the application favoured economic development subject to conditions regarding aspects of the site’s preservation and its ability to be restored in the future.

The Committee members who attended a site visit on Wednesday, May 12, said it was the most informative and best site visit they had this council term. Visiting the site gave them a clearer idea about what was planned and the scale of the project, which would not have been gained from a paper exercise.

While the approval of the scheme was unanimous, one element of the reserved matters caused some members concern: the height and size of the proposed massive new sheds which would be built at a later phase of the project.
Cllr David Pugh, seconded by Cllr Steve Alderman, moved an amendment which would approve the project and delegate reserved matters to officers apart from the sheds’ construction, which would return to the Committee for detailed approval.

Cllr Tony Wilcox and Cllr Mark Carter emphasised the need for certainty regarding the project’s development, a position supported by Cllr David Howlett, Cllrs Pugh, Alderman and Cllr Stephen Joseph said that little delay would be caused to the scheme by bringing the sheds’ development back to the Committee. They noted the significant intrusion of the sheds into the landscape for miles around.

Planning Officer Mike Simmons advised that the project would proceed in five phases and that the applicant, Milford Haven Port Authority, was keen to proceed with the first phase as soon as possible. The first phase would be the infilling of the docks and pool, removing a caisson gate and preserving it, before the building of new slipways.
The Port Authority already accepted the sheds would only be built if there was commercial demand for them.
The amendment proposed by Cllr Pugh passed by six votes to five with two abstentions.

It means before the sheds are built, the Committee will decide the detailed application relating to them.

All other aspects of the development will be decided by officers.

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Business

Further Covid-19 business support packages to become available soon

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PEMBROKESHIRE businesses that remain affected by Covid-19 restrictions can check their eligibility for a new package of support from the Welsh Government.

This latest support package will help those businesses eligible to meet ongoing costs through to the end of June as they prepare for re-opening and more normal trading conditions.

Businesses that stand to benefit include:

  • nightclubs and late entertainment venues
  • events and conference venues not covered by the Welsh Government’s Cultural Recovery Fund (CRF)
  • hospitality and leisure businesses, including restaurants, pubs and cafes
  • supply chain business, which have been materially impacted by restrictions

An eligibility checker has opened on the Business Wales website so businesses can find out how much support they are likely to be entitled to and how to apply.

See more information and check your business’ eligibility at: https://businesswales.gov.wales/coronavirus-advice/

Funding will be calculated based on the size of the business and the type of restrictions they are under.

Businesses will be able submit applications to the Welsh Government from 24th May 2021 for grants of up to £25,000 and by the end of the month to Pembrokeshire County Council for smaller fixed Discretionary Grants.

To keep up to date and see the future application process for the Discretionary Grants please see: https://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/business-advice-and-support

The above link will be be updated with the latest information.  

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News

£50,000 funding windfall for low carbon community projects

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OVER £50,000 of funding has been awarded to local projects through the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority’s Sustainable Development Fund (SDF).

Since June 2020, the Fund has focussed on supporting community-led projects that contribute towards a reduction in carbon and help respond to the climate emergency. These can include:

·       Installing renewable energy generation facilities, such as solar panels, to a community building

·       Transport initiatives that promote reduced carbon emissions

·       The installation of community facilities that minimise waste, such as water fountains

·       Any other community-based carbon reduction initiatives.

Tenby RFC were among those to benefit from the most recent round of grants with an initiative to install recycling bins and litter pick stations at each of the sports facilities in the town.

There were two successful applications from the Solva area – one for the installation of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels at Solva Community Clubhouse, and the other from the Community Organised Allotment for Solva Tenants (COAST) to help with set-up costs.

Others to be awarded an SDF grant were the Paul Sartori Foundation and the EcoDewi community group. The Paul Sartori Foundation’s project involved fitting of tracking devices onto warehouse vans to enable route optimisation and increased fuel economy; while EcoDewi secured funding to support a part-time role organising community engagement events and volunteering activities, and developing wider community partnerships.

Jessica Morgan, Funding and Grants Officer for the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Trust said: “It’s been wonderful to see such variety in the applications we’ve received, and the innovative climate emergency solutions suggested by communities in the National Park.

“We look forward to receiving the next round of applications, and would encourage any community-led group or organisation that needs support to fund projects that will help reduce carbon and/or respond to climate change to apply as soon as possible.”

The next deadline for SDF applications is Friday 10 September 2021.

To find out more about SDF grants, and to apply online or download the application form please visit www.pembrokeshirecoast.wales/sdf.  

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