MEDIA CONTACT: Emily Moore,  

Since 2019 seven oil refineries have closed across the United States, almost all without warning, leading to the loss of more than 3,400 high-paying jobs and $21 million in forgone tax revenue annually in the communities that hosted them. At the same time, most of the oil companies that own the refineries have forestalled cleanup and left sites heavily polluted.  

A new report from Sightline Institute details each closure, decisions about which, without exception, were made behind closed doors. The communities that had long hosted the refineries were given no chance to weigh in on transition plans. Just one of the recently closed refineries, in Philadelphia, is being fully redeveloped. The rest are “idling,” converting to oil storage facilities, or converting to biofuels processing. These paths offer communities a sliver of former job and tax benefits while preventing full environmental remediation of the sites.    

Washington state is home to five aging oil refineries, including ones owned by Marathon Petroleum, HF Sinclair, and Phillips 66, the same owners of several recently closed refineries. More than 2,000 employees work at Washington’s five refineries, plus an additional average of about 2,400 contractors annually. The refineries together paid more than $24 million in local property taxes in 2021, primarily in Skagit and Whatcom counties.  

Washington has no plan for the future of its oil refineries, despite analysts expecting oil demand to peak in the mid-2020s or 2030s and predicting continued closures in the next few years. No community-led vision exists for what the sites should or could become, nor are there guardrails to prevent refineries from lingering on as oil terminals or export facilities, offering few economic benefits and preventing cleanup. Plus, the cost of full cleanup is unknown, and if a refinery owner chose to file for bankruptcy, Washington taxpayers could be left on the hook for some or most of the costs. 

“Washington’s refinery-hosting communities deserve a transition plan that includes both high-paying jobs and a clean environment,” says Emily Moore, report author and Senior Researcher with Sightline Institute. “And local leaders and elected officials in Washington state have a unique opportunity to learn from other cities and towns across the United States—to protect Washington against the volatile global oil market and buffer communities against the economic shocks and environmental hazards oil companies have left in their wake elsewhere.” 

Find the full report at 


Emily Moore, Senior Researcher, leads Sightline’s work transitioning Cascadia away from fossil fuels. Emily joined Sightline with a decade of experience in social sector strategy and program implementation. She earned her Master’s in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School and her Bachelor’s from Brown University. Email her at, view all of her latest research, and find her on Twitter at @_enmoore_. 

Sightline Institute is an independent, nonprofit think tank transforming Cascadia into a global model of sustainability. It publishes leading original research and analysis of housing, democracy, and energy policy. 

December 1, 2022