Tom Butt for Richmond City Council The Tom Butt E-Forum About Tom Butt Platform Endorsements of Richmond Councilmember Tom Butt Accomplishments Contribute to Tom Butt for Richmond City Council Contact Tom Butt Tom Butt Archives
E-Mail Forum
Who is Telling the Truth?

An article in today's West County Times highlights one of the many, but perhaps the most contentious, issues regarding the proposed Chevron "Energy and Hydrogen Renewal Project." Outside experts contend that what Chevron is really planning to do is prepare to process "dirtier" crude oil to anticipate scarcer oil supplies and to increase profitability. Chevron says, "No, trust us."


How to come up with a mechanism that will enable Richmond to enforce the "crude slate" that Chevron says it will run is the major problem. Some say the Bay Area Air Quality Management District could take on that responsibility, but Richmonders see the BAAQMD as a weak and ineffective body that prefers compromise to confrontation.


Group takes Chevron to task over Richmond refinery plans

By Katherine Tam


Article Launched: 03/05/2008 05:37:42 PM PST


An environmental group fears that Chevron will process lower-quality, more-contaminated crude if it receives approval to upgrade equipment at its Richmond refinery, even though the oil company told the city it would do no such thing.

Processing lower-quality oil would release 5 to 50 times more pollutants, which would affect residents and wildlife, said Greg Karras, a scientist with the Oakland-based nonprofit Communities for a Better Environment.

"Our health and lives should not be compromised in the name of Chevron's profit," CBE member Jessica Tovar said at a Tuesday news conference.

Representatives at the refinery said Tuesday afternoon they had not had time to thoroughly review the group's allegations.

"The refinery will refine the same type of crude oil as it refines now, and the (environmental impact report) concludes there will be a reduction in overall emissions from the project," spokesman Dean O'Hair said.

Chevron is proposing to replace its hydrogen plant, power plant and reformer. The company would process the same amount of oil as it does now, but new equipment would allow it to refine a wider range of crude into gasoline, according to the final EIR issued in January.

The project must win permits from the city, the state and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. The city's Planning Commission, charged with determining if the EIR is complete and if the project should move forward, could rule as early as March 20.

conference Tuesday, Communities for a Better Environment showed documents to support its claims that Chevron submitted inconsistent information to different agencies, and falsely reported certain production levels to the city.

Chevron told the city it lacks the equipment to process heavier crudes. But critics say Chevron submitted information to the air-quality district that shows it has a solvent deasphalting plant configured to use solvents to extract more oil from more-contaminated, or heavier, crude.

Just because Chevron has the capacity to process heavier crude oil is no guarantee that it will. But Karras said lower-quality oil is cheaper, an incentive for oil companies seeking to increase profits.

The environmental impact report should be redone because it is based on incomplete data Chevron submitted to the city, the group said.

Chevron's O'Hair said he believes CBE's allegations will have "no merit" upon review.

"The EIR is inconsistent with the CBE's allegations," he said.

Information submitted to different agencies might differ, he said, because some agencies are looking at different aspects of the project and want more detail. Information that is different isn't necessarily inconsistent, he added.

The project will result in a more reliable refinery that also creates 1,200 construction jobs, O'Hair said.

Reach Katherine Tam at 510-262-2787 or ktam@bayareanewsgroup.com.