Carbon County Economy Will Take Hit From Massive Sinclair Firings, Commissioner Says

A Carbon County commissioner told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that the massive layoffs at the Sinclair refinery will have a "ripple effect" on the county's economy.

Joshua Wood

July 19, 20224 min read

Sinclair refinery 4 29 22 v2 scaled
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Layoffs at one of Carbon County’s largest employers will have a “ripple effect” for the county’s economy, one county commissioner said Monday afternoon.

HF Sinclair last week confirmed reports that it plans to to terminate nearly 90 employees at its Sinclair refinery. The terminations come less than a year after Holly Frontier announced its merger with Sinclair Oil, which was completed in March of this year. 

Corrin Smith, Director of Corporate Communications for HF Sinclair, confirmed in an email that 87 employees at the Sinclair refinery had been informed their positions were being eliminated. Of those, 32 were released the same day while the remaining 55 will remain at the refinery until September 2022.

“To help, all impacted employees have been invited to apply at other open positions at the refinery and across the company,” said Smith, “and we’re working with the state of Wyoming to help employees find alternative employment opportunities.”

As of Tuesday morning, however, the HF Sinclair website showed there were no open positions available at either the Sinclair facility or the one in Casper. The Wyoming At Work website, meanwhile, had 18 job listings with HF Sinclair, with the most recent listing posted three weeks prior. Of those, eight were located in Sinclair with the remainder in Casper or Cheyenne.

The Sinclair refinery, according to the HF Sinclair website, refines 85,000 barrels of oil per day,  55,000 more barrels than its sister refinery in Casper. Both refineries produce gasoline and diesel from refined oil.

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, in a July 13 comment, said the firings would be devastating for area communities.

“This is devastating news for the affected employees, their families, & the Rawlins & Sinclair communities.”

According to Carbon County Commissioner Sue Jones, the impact from the layoffs goes beyond Rawlins and Sinclair. 

Jones said, as one of the largest employers in Carbon County, the refinery employs people from Saratoga, Encampment, Hanna and Elk Mountain. Jones said any job lost in the county had an impact and she believed the decision by HF Sinclair would have negative effects for her county.

One example cited by Jones was an employee applying for an open position with the company and being relocated to a refinery in another state. Jones said it wouldn’t mean relocation just for that employee, but the entire family, which could impact other businesses in the county as well as the school district.

Carbon County hasn’t exactly been growing, at least according to the 2020 Census. Between 2010 and 2020, the county saw a decrease of 0.8% from 15,885 residents to 14,537. 

The two school districts in Carbon County have seen a decline in enrollment as well. According to data from the Wyoming Department of Education, Carbon County School District No. 1 — comprised of schools in Rawlins, Sinclair and Baggs — has seen a decline over the past few years. The district had more than 1,800 students nearly a decade ago and had just more than 1,600 students enrolled in the 2021-2022 school year. 

Carbon County School District No. 2, composed of schools from Encampment and Saratoga to Hanna, Elk Mountain and Medicine Bow, has also seen a decrease. During the 2013-2014 school year, the school district had approximately 652 students enrolled compared to 600 this past school year.

The layoffs at the Sinclair refinery also take place at the same time oil continues to be above $100 per barrel and gas has dropped below $4.50 per gallon. Smith, however, did not clarify whether the termination of the 87 employees was related to national economic trends.

“As a result of the recent acquisition, we are aligning our facilities to reflect best practices for operational excellence,” said Smith in an email. “Through this work, we have made changes to the organizational structure across the newly acquired facilities that will allow us to operate more efficiently, while maintaining safety and reliability.”

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Joshua Wood

Business and Tourism Reporter