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Kiriakou writes: "A Chinese oil company is poised to take over one of the 10 largest oil refineries in the world - a refinery in a U.S. territory - threatening livelihoods, the environment, and U.S. national security."

John Kiriakou. (photo: AFI Docs)
John Kiriakou. (photo: AFI Docs)

The Chinese in the US Virgin Islands, Be Concerned

By John Kiriakou, Reader Supported News

03 January 16


Chinese oil company is poised to take over one of the 10 largest oil refineries in the world – a refinery in a U.S. territory – threatening livelihoods, the environment, and U.S. national security.

The Virgin Islands Senate recently approved the sale of the HOVENSA oil refinery and storage facility for $420 million to ArchLight, the alter ego of Sinopec, a joint venture of China’s second-largest oil conglomerate and the Bank of China. The Chinese aren’t interested in refining any oil there. Instead, they want the accompanying tank farm, which would allow them to store as much as 32 million barrels of refined oil and petrochemicals deliverable to New York or Philadelphia cheaper than from our own U.S. Gulf Coast.

That sounds like a good deal for both American consumers and for Virgin Islanders. But it’s not – for several reasons.

First, the refinery was shuttered and mothballed in 2012. The Chinese want to dismantle it, potentially endangering the fragile Virgin Islands environment, and use only the tank farm. And although the Environmental Protection Agency has mandated a cleanup of the site estimated to cost some $800 million, the Chinese claim they can do it for $30 million. To make matters worse, the Chinese say they would like to put an asphalt plant on the site of the refinery, which would further foul the environment.

Second, an American consortium called VIRSA, Virgin Islands Refining SA, has offered some $2.3 billion for the refinery and the tank farm. They would clean up the site, and reopen and upgrade the refinery, bringing it up to EPA standards. This would create as many as 1,500 new jobs for Virgin Islanders, a dramatic development in a territory with only 40,000 people in the workforce.

Third, the VIRSA offer includes a provision for cheap electricity that would replace the expensive and dirty diesel fuel that the Virgin Islands government currently uses to keep the lights on. The government frequently must borrow from the public employees pension fund to pay for this diesel. Cheap electricity from the refinery would allow the government to render its pension fund whole again, further strengthening its economy over the long term.

Fourth, what happens if there is a spill from the tank farm or from Chinese tankers coming or going from the facility? Can the Chinese company be trusted to pay for and carry out a potentially large-scale cleanup? Or will the Chinese simply have their Virgin Islands limited liability corporations declare bankruptcy and let the Virgin Islands government deal with the disaster?

Finally, and most importantly, there are serious national security issues at play with Chinese ownership of this strategic facility. The U.S. submarine base at Roosevelt Roads in Puerto Rico is closed, and the Virgin Islands government has lobbied the Pentagon’s Defense Logistics Agency to open a submarine base on St. Croix. The area between the St. Croix Airport and the refinery, called Renaissance Park, has a channel 550 feet wide and 75 feet deep that leads to a turning basin. There is no similar facility in the Caribbean. The channel could easily be dredged, allowing the U.S. Navy a new home in the Caribbean. But this prospect of long-term development is rendered moot by a Chinese tank farm offering to create only 100 jobs. To locate a sensitive naval installation next to a Chinese oil facility would be a potential military intelligence disaster.

So who has dropped the ball on this issue? First, it appears that neither the State Department nor the Defense Department has weighed in with the Virgin Islands government. The National Security Council is missing in action. The EPA doesn’t seem to care about the environmental fallout of a Chinese tank farm and asphalt plant in a U.S. environmental paradise. And no member of Congress has made a single statement about the deal, including the Virgin Islands’ representative.

Time is short. It looks like the fix is in. A whole host of leaders from the federal and Virgin Islands governments have to ask themselves if they would rather have a modern American refinery or a Chinese tank farm as a neighbor. If the answer is the former, somebody needs to act quickly.

John Kiriakou is an associate fellow with the Institute for Policy Studies. He is a former CIA counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


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+46 # bobhintz 2016-01-03 10:30
Did I read this right? The Virgin Island Senate has approved the sale of this property to a Chinese company for $420 million and an American consortium has offered $2300 million ($2.3 billion) for the same property?

Now that doesn't make sense at all. How can this be?
-12 # trottydt 2016-01-03 14:44
"Now that doesn't make sense at all. How can this be?"
KIRIAKOU bright till him dazzle me too bobhintz.
-12 # Helga Fellay 2016-01-03 10:33
Being a peace loving progressive, I welcome a limited Chinese presence in our territories to create a much needed power balance in the world. I also consider less dependence on ME oil to benefit our national security. Who knows, it might lead to less military engagement in the ME which would increase our national security, not threaten it. If the Chinese can clean up the shuttered and mothballed refinery, as mandated by the EPA, for $30 million instead of $800 million, more power to them.

"The area between the St. Croix Airport and the refinery, called Renaissance Park, has a channel 550 feet wide and 75 feet deep that leads to a turning basin. There is no similar facility in the Caribbean. The channel could easily be dredged, allowing the U.S. Navy a new home in the Caribbean." So Mr. Kiriakou thinks it would be brilliant if we built yet one more military installation, this time in the fragile Virgin Islands, as if we needed to totally militarize the entire world, including this fragile natural paradise. John Kiriakou is a former CIA counterterroris m officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. As one might expect, he is solidly on the side of our neocon global domination US Empire power elite. What is surprising that RSN would give him this platform. He has the MSM, why here, too?
+53 # dbrize 2016-01-03 11:23
Helga Fellay:

"John Kiriakou is a former CIA counterterroris m officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. As one might expect, he is solidly on the side of our neocon global domination US Empire power elite."

Kiriakou blew the whistle on CIA torture tactics. He also served 30 months imprisonment for providing classified information to reporters. As well, he formed the Veteran Intelligence Professionals For Sanity an organization with an impressive membership opposed to much of our current war mongering foreign policy.

Though none of this makes him infallible, it does speak against your charges directed at him.
-6 # Helga Fellay 2016-01-03 17:38
This is not the first piece of his that was pro-US Empire. He may have been forgiven by the CIA and received a puny 30-months sentence for leaking classified information in exchange of using his new "left street cred" to become an established and respected, credible-seemin g member of the progressive lot. He may be fooling you, but he is not fooling me for an instant. Why would anything Chinese built automatically pose a greater environmental threat than anything US built? There are a lot of little holes like that in his story. Are huge naval installations really such a good idea for the threatened corals in the Virgin Islands?
+5 # Harry 4 2016-01-04 14:23
Helga: your theory of Kiriakou having garnered some "left street cred" I do find plausible. Nowadays: what's up is down and all around. Strange times.
+25 # elizabethblock 2016-01-03 12:33
"If the Chinese can clean up the shuttered and mothballed refinery, as mandated by the EPA, for $30 million instead of $800 million..."
That's a big if.
+6 # Radscal 2016-01-03 13:51
Exactly, Helga. Kiriakou (who has written other pro-US Empire articles now that he has "street cred" for leaking info on the US torture program) is calling for a new refining facility and military base to be built in the Virgin Islands.

He disingenuously concern-trolls for the environmental danger of China dismantling the old refinery thereby ending all refining there, and touts building a new refinery as the environmentally sound choice. He pretends to be concerned about spills from the tank farm, but of course, if a new refinery is built, that just adds another environmental hazard and does not remove the tank farm.
+18 # dbrize 2016-01-03 15:27

I have read at minimum a couple of dozen articles written by Kiriakou and have missed these "other pro-US Empire" articles. Would appreciate you directing me to them.

To my knowledge he has been an outspoken critic of US foreign policy and associates himself with folks like Phil Giraldi, Ray McGovern, Daniel Ellsberg, Colleen Rowley and and others who have long been on the right side of these issues.

If he is pulling the wool over the likes of these people he is an award deserving actor.

That said, I am willing to reserve final judgement until I've read the articles you reference.
+15 # Radscal 2016-01-03 16:06
Here’s one recently on RSN in which he defends the long-standing US policy to topple the leftist government of Venezuela:

“Chavez and Maduro styled themselves as populists and liberals. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

If you know about the Bolivarian Revolution, you know how deceitful is that claim.

“Opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, a Venezuelan opposition leader and democrat, is currently in solitary confinement and serving 13 years on charges of conspiracy, arson, inciting violence, and damaging public property. His real crime? He was polling even with Maduro.”

For the record, Lopez was personally involved in the coup against Chavez in 2002. He kidnapped a government official at gun point and held him in a secret location for 2 weeks. He earned this charge by doing exactly what was claimed. He even used the private TV stations to promote that violence.
+9 # Helga Fellay 2016-01-03 17:54
It was the article on Venezuela by Kiriakou which showed his true colors. He repeats verbatim the official propaganda coming out of Washington and the State Department which is shockingly untrue. Kiriakoy is disingenuous when he claims that Lopez was imprisoned because he was polling evan with Maduro. Nobody else, not even the right-wing propaganda machine, dares go that far. Lopez killed people, has blood on his hands, inciting a coup against the legitimate government, etc. In the US, anyone guilty of such charges would get a lot more than 13 years. Kiriakou is either a very confused puppy, or, more likely, a plant pretending to be a lefty so his right-wing propaganda will seem more credible on sites that tend to report the truth the MSM doesn't dare report.
+15 # dbrize 2016-01-03 19:12


Upon reading the article you quote I note that Kiriakou is very clear that "...many of my own friends and associates openly support the Venezuelan government of Nicolas Maduro...".

These are hardly the words of one trying to infiltrate progressivism with sneaky misdirection.

For the record I would disagree with him on this particular issue and refer him to John Perkins: Confessions of an Economic Hit Man.
Virtually everything we have done in Latin America has been dubious at best.

When I measure him by the majority of his written work however I am unready to cast him to the dark side. To portray him as a "plant" because he is on the wrong side of an issue or two seems to me a bit of overkill. Purity is a virtue achieved by none of us.
+4 # Helga Fellay 2016-01-04 14:17
I googled John Kiriakou and found that The CIA awarded Kiriakou with 10 Exceptional Performance Awards, a Sustained Superior performance Award, the Counterterroris m Service Medal, and the State Department's Meritorious Honor Award.[9][page needed]

But that is not the end of the story. Kiriakou became a famous whistleblower - an extremely famous and very much heralded whistleblower. He revealed to the world that the CIA is waterboarding its victims, considered torture, a fact that was already becoming more and more obvious as revealed by ever more of the CIA's victims. This sudden revelation garnered Kiriakou even more awards - this time from everyone on the left, on the righteous side, as a whistleblower who gave his all to save mankind.

At the beginning of his CIA career, John Kiriakou apparently believed that waterboarding was ok, even necessary. But at some point, he decided that it was not, and he went public. As a result, he was sentenced to 30 months in a low security facility (I believed he served much less), and he has emerged as THE Hero and Great Champion of the Left. Compare that to the way the US treats REAL whistle blowers like Julian Assange or Edward Snowden who are hiding in foreign countries or foreign embassies and fearing for their lives every single day. What's wrong with this picture?
+4 # Helga Fellay 2016-01-04 14:18
continued from above:This anointed ICON of the Left, Teflon covered Kiriakou, is now posting articles on so-called anti-media sites, and no one dares even raise a question when he posts opinions that repeat neocon propaganda normally spouted by Fox talking heads and other MSM. Even the Comment section on this article seems completely changed from the way it normally reads, according to the up and down votes. I read the Comments every day and normally, my votes agree with 99% of its usual readers, except on this one article where I totally agreed with only one commenter. Perhaps a few of his former colleagues who normally do not read RSN, rose up in his defense.
+5 # Harry 4 2016-01-04 14:29
Have to agree with Helga and Radscal on this. I also remember Kiriakou's Venezuela article and was highly suspicious. Just because Kriakou included the qualifier "...many of my own friends and associates openly support the Venezuelan government of Nicolas Maduro...". means nothing. Just covering all the bases. The appearance of full disclosure is just that: an appearance. Which, as always, can be deceiving.
0 # lorenbliss 2016-01-04 22:12
Sounds like the old Gaponischka ploy. Are we witnessing the birth of another Father Gapon (?!?)
+3 # Radscal 2016-01-04 17:40
Of course, I didn't refer to him as a "plant." I merely made statements of fact demonstrated by his own words.

I do share Hilga's concern that he could be one of the many members of "Controlled Opposition" that we know the US has seeded into actual opposition organizations and the press.

I'm not so sure as her that he is a "sheep dipped" shill, but as I've written since he first drew public attention, I've been skeptical.

He does fit the pattern, after all. Even his "whistleblowing " torture was really just the highest-placed official at the time to have confirmed something we'd all seen years earlier in the Abu Ghraib photos and Gitmo lawyers' accounts.

Still, many times Controlled Opposition sorts do present true and useful information, so I encourage everyone to read their words. I just encourage people to judge each thing independently, regardless of source.

In fact, since humans tend to automatically disbelieve things from sources they distrust, and to believe things from sources they do trust, deliberate, conscious critical thinking is more important when reading trusted sources.
+1 # dbrize 2016-01-04 20:57

You are correct that you didn't use the term "plant". That was Helga and I was conflating in my reply to you. Apologies for not making that clear.

I have less apprehension than you about Kiriakou. For now at least I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. I certainly have never thought of him as (again to use Helga's term) an ICON.

Anything is possible but for me at least, if he is a phony he is fooling some very bright people. That would include the editors of RSN, Truthout, Phil Giraldi, Ray McGovern and their kind.

Particularly like your final paragraph. The inherent dangers of tribalism. We see it every day on this site and probably all others.
+2 # Radscal 2016-01-05 02:12
That last paragraph you liked really sums up my take on Kiriakou.

He's provided much fine analysis, but the "trust but verify" line fits.
+1 # Helga Fellay 2016-01-05 12:24
Thank you, Radscal. I actually should not have used the word "plant" which is probably incorrect in this case. I should have said, as you did, that "he could be one of the many members of "Controlled Opposition" that we know the US has seeded into actual opposition organizations and the press." My point is that a leopard doesn't change its spots, after a lifetime of winning more decorations and awards than anyone from my favorite agency, the CIA.
Sudden enlightenments and true conversions are possible, although rare. But if that had occurred, he could not possibly have described the situation in Venezuela the way he did.
+7 # Caliban 2016-01-03 23:27
I don't see a need in the Virgin Islands for either a Chinese oil facility or a military installation by anybody. Are there no better ideas floating around out there?
0 # fletch1165 2016-01-04 08:27
Guy Fawkes who was drawn and quartered for trying to implement these "better" ideas.
+8 # Bourbaki 2016-01-03 10:55
I agree that this article might be out of place here. But was your article eventually posted as it appears that you do have a critical post. I do hope so as the idea that our submissions are being "cleared" for acceptability would be disconcerting.
+5 # Helga Fellay 2016-01-03 11:25
Thank you. It appears to have been cleared and posted.
+21 # nancyw 2016-01-03 11:49
Enough militarism! And why not alternative energy if there is a start over plan? Asphalt? Stink up paradise. Make it a solar farm!
0 # James38 2016-01-10 02:11
Nancy, a Solar Farm in a place subject to violent hurricanes would be a foolhardy gamble. This is also a problem with wind farms in these areas.

Solar and wind have another serious problem on tropical islands - they take up too much space. Wind here is also too variable, with long periods of calm. We also have long periods of cloudy weather, often preceding and following hurricanes.

The best solution to electric energy production in Saint Croix, Saint Thomas, Puerto Rico, the Maldives, etc, would be Molten Salt Reactors. These completely fail-safe reactors would replace expensive and polluting oil and coal imported from South America.

See m for a practical design ready for deployment. This company has an agreement with Indonesia for the development of reactors there.

See timothymaloney. net for extensive discussions and excellent graphic presentations of Thorium power cycle and MSR/LFTR (Molten Salt Reactor/Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor).
+24 # Helen Marshall 2016-01-03 12:20
How about focusing on alternative energy NOW, not developing yet another fossil fuel setup, regardless of who owns it? And if the Navy needs a base in the Caribbean, how about reopening the one in Puerto Rico and helping out the struggling people of our colony there?
-6 # Dale 2016-01-03 15:04
Let´s welcome China as a power that will limit to some degree the Imperial Vision of AmeriKa Inc.
+2 # fletch1165 2016-01-04 08:52
These are corrupt multi-national elites working together. They told the Chinese to build more Walmart factories and they complied. Only recently it was discovered the American consumer can no longer afford to even by these cheap knock offs and 3/4 factories were shut down and China "voluntarily" devalued its own currency in response to their understanding of this dynamic. Vast oil reserves slated for sale to China now remain sitting in barrels in the Midwest awaiting consumption. The cheap gas prices here we see reflect that. however, stock dividends in oil have tumbled to 1/4th what they were last year and will cause a global reverberation in all stock sectors since they are all interlocked with the oil industry.
+11 # GDW 2016-01-03 20:08
I agree with NancyW, enough war and ruling the world. Turn to renewable alternative sources.
0 # bullslam 2016-01-04 03:52
These are the same people who slaughtered innocent Buddhist monks, burned down ancient monasteries in Tibet. Not to mention how the Chinese slaughtered whole villages; cutting off the legs of old men and male children and raping the women and young girls.

The Chinese are monstrous. Unfortunately they believe that the genocide of the Tibetan people is a good thing. This is how different the culture is from ours. Heaven knows, the USA is not innocent with its vast prison population; its CIA assassinating any foreign leader that doesn't invite oil interests, banks, and fast foods in and allow total exploitation of its water, minerals, and of course, its oil. Not to mention the corrupt Congress and justice system from the Supreme Court on down. Still, I do live here. It is my homeland. I've thought of moving to certain places in the world which are more peaceful, but I remain here. But to allow the Chinese access so near! And will they clean up when they have totally exhausted the place of its resources? They will not!
+10 # fletch1165 2016-01-04 08:35
How about the genocide of the Iraqi, Syrian and Palestinian people we are behind, which is nearly all of them?

How is the clean-up going for the irresponsible deep sea drilling that demolished the Gulf?

Chevron has been drilling the Takla Makan Tarim Basin in Western China's XingXiang province since the late 1980's. its the World's third largest oil reserve.

Chinese, Japanese and American industrialists work together routinely to collectively pollute the entire world for profit. The #3, #2 and #1 economies of the World are in complete agreement that the raping should continue. All I see are monsters here. I make no particular distinction between American multinational and Chinese multinational elites. Except American multinational are far in the lead in destroying biospheres and environments far and wide, including the targeting of the Alaskan refuge.
+1 # Radscal 2016-01-04 17:44
And the Tibetan aristocracy was not so nice, either. The Tibetan people were basically slaves or feudal serfs at the best.
+10 # Jae 2016-01-04 09:11
I am a Virgin Islander. I was born and raised there but received my BA in political science and masters degrees from prominent American Institutions. I now reside in the Virgin Islands. The comments on this post remain a large part of the reason why locals are so anti-American. You sit from the mainlan and draw these conclusions of what is best for America's paradise. Most federal regulations are to suit national interests and seldom does Congress as local leaders for their take. I'm happy this refinery sparked great debate. But when will we debate on the fact that US Territories have non voting members of Congress? When will we debate the millions of disenfranchised
Americans living in the territories who cannot vote for President? No one discusses those pressing issues? Instead all the critics from across the globe want to have s discussion when things affect America's national interest? When does America really find the time to care for their "colonies"? Get outta here!!!
+7 # Jae 2016-01-04 09:20
What makes the author of this article think that we want another military presence in the Caribbean? We do not wish to be like other islands such as Cuba, Guam, Hawaii, etc? The people aren't begging or asking for one. We were under naval control for decades and if you understand Virgin Islands History, the first time were truly socially oppressed was under American Naval rule. We are a former Danish territory and the Danes were politically and socially tolerant. They didn't even force their language upon us. That is why no Virgin Islander speaks Danish. We only speak English. But after being sold to America and Naval rule took over, all of the racist, oppressive and imperialist ideologies came. Although the navy helped to build our infrastructure, the naval men raped our women, disrespected our men and I can go on. Unless Congress grants us the right to vote for our President then we do not want a naval base. Our locals can't be good enough to serve and defend liberties but can't be good enough to vote.,
+8 # Jae 2016-01-04 09:23
Take a course in Virgin Islands history and then I will say the author is prepared to have a debate on VI issues. Until then, I believe this article is complete madness.... Our local senate is comprised of educated people who are divided along party lines, yet they all voted to ratify the agreement. That spoke volumes.
+1 # Radscal 2016-01-04 17:53
Thank you, Jae for introducing the local perspective. I know some other Islanders, and have spent some time in the Virgin Islands and besides their really containing some true paradise, found most of the people to be bright, reflective and compassionate.

It broke my heart when I saw crack show up in the 1980s, but considering the history of drug manufacturing and transportation throughout the US-controlled islands (thanks Mafia and CIA), it was not shocking.
-7 # WaaDoo 2016-01-04 16:51
Easy to answer John,

EPA is busy poisoning rivers in Western USA in order to declare disaster and then claim control under the BLM.
Each agency under this Muslim Socialist is AWOL on the project. As a Communist sympathizer, PUTZUS will not stand in the way of the Communist Chinese gov't. Yes, be concerned !!

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