At the May 7, 2002, City Council meeting,
the Richmond City Council missed yet another opportunity to negotiate
with Chevron-Texaco to obtain benefits for the citizens of Richmond and
to eliminate adverse impacts of the refinery. The action was supported
by all members of the City Council who were present except me.
Apparently, some years ago, Chevron took
advantage of California Government Code Section 6500 to use “Pollution
Control” bonds issued by the California Statewide Community Development
Authority to construct a flare system, catalytic reduction units and
wastewater treatment. Repayment of the bonded amount of $28 million has
now become due, and Chevron-Texaco wants to refinance, taking advantage
of the astoundingly low 1.5% interest rate underwritten by the rest of
us taxpayers. When is the last time the City of Richmond offered to
facilitate a 1.5% loan for you?
George Berk, testifying for the California
Statewide Community Development Authority, conceded that the bonds could
not be issued without consent of the Richmond City Council, that City
Council approval was a discretionary act and that such approval would
carry substantial economic advantages for Chevron.
No new “pollution control” facilities will
be constructed using the bonds, and those that were previously
constructed were required by regulatory authorities and were not exactly
a gift to the community by Chevron.
The City of Richmond is adversely impacted
in many respects by the Chevron refinery, and the City Council continues
to miss opportunities to change this relationship. Consider:
Because Chevron has not used available technology
to reduce potential hazards from its ammonia storage facilities, the
EIR/EIS on the Naval Fuel depot Point Molate found that residential
land use at Point Molate would be “incompatible” due to “the potential
exposure of future residents to accidental releases of toxic
substances from the refinery,” specifically the Alternate release
Scenario (ARS) impact circle for ammonia. The EIR/EIS call this an
“unmitigitable impact,” despite the fact that Point Richmond
residences and Parkway Estates residences are within the same ARS
CHEVRON PRODUCTS COMPANY
is the second-highest air polluter in Contra Costa County, producing,
for example, 3,400 tons of nitrogen oxides annually, most of which are
directed by prevailing winds at low-income communities to the north
and east. This is in a county that based on the most current EPA data,
this county ranked among the dirtiest/worst 10% of all counties in the
US in terms of the number of people living in areas where cancer risk
from hazardous air pollutants exceeds 1 in 10,000. For a comprehensive
pollution report see
Chevron has refused to provide a right of way
through its property on the east side of the Richmond parkway (former
Castro Street route) so that trucks from the BNSF railroad yard can
enter and exit onto the truck route portion of the Richmond Parkway
instead of the automobile route that flanks Atchison Village. The site
is the location of a former warehouse (now demolished) that Chevron
considers too valuable to be disturbed by truck traffic (Huh?).
Chevron’s charitable contributions to Richmond
non-profit organizations have declined substantially since the
mid-to-late 1990’s when chevron needed a Conditional Use Permit from
the City for the Reformulated Fuels Project, which incidentally,
included the production of MTBE, an environmental disaster that many
believe Chevron knew about in advance. Chevron was one of 26 companies
that settled a lawsuit fir $33 million brought by South Lake Tahoe for
polluting its underground water with MTBE.
During the recession of the early 1990’s, Chevron
successfully pursued revaluation of its Richmond facilities for
property tax purposes, effectively reducing by millions of dollars the
amount of property taxes paid to Richmond by the $100 million company.
This reduction in income is now being felt by the citizens of Richmond
in reduced maintenance and replacement of parks facilities, recreation
programs, and other City services.
It s pretty much an accepted fact that one of the
reasons Steve Jobs took Pixar out of Richmond is proximity to he
Richmond refinery and its poor record of pollution, “accidental”
releases, explosions and periodic soundings of the emergency warning
The largest political contributor in Richmond in
local elections is Chevron.
The “Committee for Quality Representation, a
coalition of local manufacturers,” started 2001 with $54,922 in the
bank and raised an additional $117,760 during the year, for cumulative
contributions of $167,760, primarily from Chevron Texaco Corporation,
Home Builders Association of Northern California, Rich PAC, Tosco
Corporation and Ultramar Diamond Shamrock, Inc. In the 2001 Richmond
City Council and mayoral election, the committee spent approximately
$150,000 supporting five candidates and trying to defeat two.
Richmond has the opportunity to cut a
better deal with Chevron-Texaco rather than continuing to cut a fat hog.
Will we ever se this relationship change?