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$839,000 For a Fatally Flawed EIR?

On July 24, the Finance Committee of the City Council will consider raising the fee paid to Environmental Science Associates (ESA) to prepare the EIR for the Chevron Hydrogen and Energy Renewal Project to $839,000.


Since the cost of EIRs is always reimbursed by the applicant, in this case, Chevron, there is no cost to the City. So why should we care?


Here is why we should care. The EIR prepared by ESA is fatally flawed. It’s not worth $839,000. In fact, to quote John “Cactus Jack” Garner, the EIR is "not worth a bucket of warm spit," although it is reported that Garner actually named a different body fluid in his famous characterization of the vice-presidency.


In fact, the California attorney general has asserted that the Draft EIR for the Chevron Hydrogen and Energy Renewal Project is defective, inadequate, incomplete and out of conformance with CEQA for its failure to adequately cover flaring, global warming, greenhouse gas emissions, and VOC emissions. Click here for a copy of the attorney general’s letter.


Why do we keep getting incomplete and defective EIRs for Richmond projects? There could be several reasons. The people who write EIRs may simply be incompetent. Or, even though the City retains EIR consultants, the consultants know whose hand feeds them. There may be a not so subtle attempt to avoid criticism of the company that writes the check – especially a check for a million dollars.


In any event, this is a chronic problem that results in a lot of heartburn, wasted time and expense for Richmond residents who expect an accurate and straightforward EIR but instead spend months and years of their own valuable time and money fighting to get an accurate assessment of a project’s impacts.


I am going to request that the Contra Costa Grand Jury take up this issue of bad EIRs and try to get to the bottom of the problem and recommend solutions.