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  Richmond Loses EIR Suit on Chevron's LPG Project
October 30, 2004

According to a former CBE attorney, on October 29, 2004, the First District Court of Appeal ruled in favor of Communities for a Better Environment ("CBE"), holding that the City of Richmond should have prepared an environmental impact report ("EIR") for the Chevron Reformulated Gas Phase 3 project that included construction of Liquid Propane Gas ("LPG") spheres. The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's decision from last year and remanded with instructions to prepare an EIR.


This is yet another example of how the Richmond Planning Department cuts ChevronTexaco and major developers slack when it comes to CEQA compliance. See Richmond Planning Department - A Negative Declaration Mill? December 21, 2002, CBE Takes First Step Toward Litigating the Chevron LPG Spheres Project, July 13, 2002, and LPG Spheres - Another Chevron Rubber Stamp Project? June 3, 2002. The Planning Commission and City Council also rubber-stamped the Planning Department’s shoddy work. When the LPG matter came to the City Council on appeal from the Planning Commission on June 4, 2002, the motion to approve was made by Viramontes and seconded by Penn. I made a substitute motion to require an EIR, but there was no second. The entire City Council, except me, voted to support Viramontes’ motion. Griffin was absent. Only this time, they got caught.


It has been nearly 2 ˝ years, but vindication is still sweet. Sometimes it feels lonely and futile to be the lone dissenting vote, but there is justice. Thank goodness we have recourse to the legal system to right the wrongs wrought by the City of Richmond.


I want to quote from the December 21, 2003 RE-FORUM cited above:

“The Richmond Planning Department has a long history of perceiving itself an extension of an applicant or developer's own staff where the mission of moving a project into implementation as quickly as possible finds a seamless merge with public policy. The classic shortcut around a time consuming EIR is what CEQA calls a negative declaration. This action essentially concludes that a project either will have no adverse impact on the environment or that such impacts can be mitigated to insignificance. Used correctly, this tool has many appropriate applications.”

“Large developers and industries with controversial projects in Richmond routinely benefit from negative declarations. Infamous past examples are the Chevron MTBE Plant and a reconstruction of the General Chemical plant. More recent ones include the Chevron LPG tanks and Ethanol Blending Facility. These same types of businesses also routinely benefit from "piecemealing," a process banned by CEQA but embraced with alacrity by the Richmond Planning Department.”

I have always maintained that the Planning Department should be working for the residents of Richmond, not well-heeled applicants for large project entitlements. I hope the five people elected to the City Council next week will have the backbone to enforce public policy that favors those who elected them rather than those who paid for their victory.