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Richmond City Council Cuts A Fat Hog For Chevron
May 11, 2002

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 impact circle.
  • 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 http://www.baaqmd.gov/permit/toxics/toxinv00/volume2/append-b/appndxb1.pdf, page B-1-52.
  • 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 system sirens.
  • 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?