|Hazards of Living Near Refineries and Rail
June 9, 2007
Note: The E-FORUM will be off line for a week, while I raft the Grand Canyon.
Residents wary of Chevron proposal
· 29 of 30 speakers at Planning Commission meeting oppose plan for hydrogen plant to refine crude oilBy John Geluardi
CONTRA COSTA TIMES
Article Launched:06/09/2007 11:35:58 AM PDTThe public had its first chance this week to comment on Chevron's plans to install a hydrogen plant for refining poor-quality crude oil.
The inexpensive "dirty" crude will increase refinery profit margins but also increase dangerous emissions from the Richmond refinery by about 800 tons a year, according to the project's draft environmental report. In 2004, Chevron exceeded state limits for toxic emissions by 475,000 pounds, according to a Bay Area Air Quality Management District emissions inventory.
But Chevron officials say the project will make the refinery safer and reduce overall emissions by improving efficiency.
About 30 people commented on the project's draft environmental report during a city Planning Commission meeting Thursday night. All but one of the speakers opposed the project, saying it would have negative health impacts on nearby low-income communities such as North Richmond, Achenston Village, the Iron Triangle and Parchester Village.
"If this plan goes forward, it will lock Richmond into refining dirty crude for the next 30 years," said Carla Perez, a project director with the Oakland-based Communities for a Better Environment. "It will exacerbate health impacts on already heavily impacted neighborhoods and increase the risk of a catastrophic incident."
The Richmond Planning Department will accept comments on the two-volume report until June 25. The Planning Commission is expected to approve or reject the report by August.
The larger project would consist of four component projects, which are considered in the environmental impact report. The components include the replacement of an outmoded steam boiler plant with a gas turbine "cogeneration" plant, a new gasoline reformer and hydrogen purity improvements.
Chevron has an opportunity to develop a less-polluting project by making hydrogen from water instead of fossil fuels and by generating power for the refinery by developing a green-energy structure that relies on solar and wind power sources, said Better Environment scientist Greg Karras.
"Chevron says it has to rebuild, replace and upgrade," Karras said. "And it's true they do, but they also have an opportunity to do that in a way that puts us on a course toward renewable refining."
But effective technology for producing hydrogen from water does not exist, Chevron spokesman Dean O'Hair said.
"I don't know of any technology like that that's available," O'Hair said. "This project is using the latest and most up-to-date technology available, which will make us one of the most efficient refineries in the United States."
Mayor Gayle McLaughlin remains skeptical of the refinery's arguments and wants to make sure the health of Richmond residents comes first.
"I'm very, very dedicated to the health of this community here in Richmond and making sure no further impact on an already-overburdened community is effected," McLaughlin said. "The pollution we've endured for decades has got to end."
Ruth Gilman, who lives near the refinery in Achenston Village, said she does not like the project.
"We had 30 people go to the hospital after Chevron's last accident in January, so why should we approve this expansion so they can produce hydrogen?" Gilman said. "Don't they pollute enough already?"
Reach John Geluardi at 510-262-2787 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
time to comment
Comments on the draft environmental impact report for Chevron's plans to install a hydrogen plant must be received by 5 p.m. June 25. Address comments to Lamont Thompson, senior planner, city of Richmond, Planning and Building Regulations Department, 1401 Marina Way S., Richmond, CA 94804.
From the Los Angeles Times
Chevron squeezed for oil sales
Company poised to pay millions over alleged kickbacks to Saddam Hussein
Wednesday, May 9, 2007
Chevron Corp. is near an agreement to pay a $25 million -to-$30 million fine over alleged kickbacks in the company's purchases of Iraqi crude oil under Saddam Hussein, according to a published report Tuesday.
The New York Times reported that Chevron is negotiating a settlement with federal prosecutors investigating a scandal-ridden United Nations program that allowed Iraq to use oil exports to buy food despite international sanctions.
As part of the settlement, San Ramon's Chevron, the second-largest U.S. oil company, is preparing to state that it should have known its purchases included kickbacks to Hussein's government, the paper reported.
Chevron Chief Executive Officer David O'Reilly, speaking in Chicago, declined to comment on the report, according to Bloomberg.
Company spokesman Kent Robertson said he could not confirm the report but said, "Chevron has cooperated with all inquiries into the oil-for-food program."
There have been several investigations.
The program began in 1996 as a way to ease the Iraqi people's suffering under international sanctions imposed after the 1991 Gulf War. Iraq could sell oil abroad but use the proceeds only for food, medicine and humanitarian supplies.
The system was designed to maintain economic pressure on Hussein while placating United Nations members opposed to the sanctions.
But a series of government reports found that Hussein's regime found ways to squeeze money out of the program.
International oil companies such as Chevron couldn't buy directly from Iraq. Instead, they bought from traders who purchased the oil from Baghdad under United Nations supervision. Starting in 2000, the Iraqi regime used fees and surcharges built into the price to skim money from the sales.
A 2005 investigation by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker estimated the regime received $1.8 billion in kickbacks. The program was dismantled after the U.S.-led 2003 invasion that toppled Hussein.
Chevron had been buying Iraqi oil and bringing it to the company's California refineries, which are configured to handle the kind of high-sulfur crude Iraq produces. The company stopped importing from Iraq just before the 2003 invasion, saying it didn't want any interruption in supply.
Chevron started buying Iraqi crude again after Hussein's fall. According to the federal Energy Information Administration, the company received three shipments this year of Iraqi oil in January and one in February, the most recent month for which records are available.
Chevron's purchases from 2000 through 2002 included $20 million in surcharges that were paid by the traders dealing with Baghdad but were financed by Chevron, according to the New York Times.
Records obtained by American, Italian and U.N. officials provided information about the practice, the paper reported. The purchases, including surcharges, continued even after a high-ranking Chevron official warned in an internal communication that the company should scrutinize the "identity, experience and reputation" of the trading firms, the Times reported.
Some of the purchases happened while Condoleezza Rice, now the secretary of state, served on Chevron's corporate board and led its public policy committee, the Times reported. Chevron spokesman Robertson said, however, that a review of Chevron board records found no discussion of the oil-for-food program at any board meetings during Rice's tenure.
Rice left the board in 2001 when President Bush chose her as his national security adviser.
Chevron is not the first oil company ensnared in the current oil-for-food probe. In February, El Paso Corp. agreed to pay $7.73 million to settle with U.S. government investigators. The company's Iraqi oil purchases included $5.48 million in secret surcharges, according to government investigators.
E-mail David R. Baker at email@example.com..
Cancer risk rises for those near rail yards
A study says Commerce neighborhoods near several major facilities face a greater threat from diesel soot than residents elsewhere.
By Janet Wilson