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Chevron Project to Planning Commission Tonight

Richmond panel to review Chevron report

  RICHMOND: Group will determine fate of environmental assessment that could clear way for upgrades

By Katherine Tam

STAFF WRITER

Article Launched: 03/20/2008 03:03:46 AM PDT

 

Three years after Chevron first proposed it, the oil company's contentious plan to upgrade equipment at its Richmond refinery reaches a critical decision-making point tonight.

The Richmond Planning Commission will decide whether the environmental impact report issued in January is complete and whether the project should get the green light to move forward.

The public hearing at Richmond City Council chamber is likely to be packed and emotionally charged.

Chevron wants 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 EIR.

At the heart of a very heated debate is whether the project is good for Richmond.

Refinery representatives say the project would mean a more reliable and efficient refinery that also creates construction jobs and revenue. But critics fear the oil company will process more-contaminated crude that would increase pollution for residents and wildlife; they say the environmental report must be redone.

State Attorney General Jerry Brown also weighed in with a letter to the city, saying the report fails to fully analyze some air pollutants and mitigation measures.

Both sides have intensified their lobbying efforts in the final days leading up to tonight's hearing. On Monday, Chevron sent an e-mail blast, urging supporters to enter their name and address

letter in support of the project to the Planning Commission and City Council.

Opponents tried to foil that approach by putting sentences such as "Don't Let Them Rip Off Richmond Again" and "Please Protect Us" in the fields where names and addresses were to go.

Tonight's hearing will allow time for supporters and opponents to make their cases. Chevron and an opponents group plan to give presentations.

Others then will be allowed time at the microphone. If there are 15 or fewer speakers on a side, each person on that side will get three minutes to speak. If there are 16 to 24 speakers on a side, each person will get two minutes to speak. The time per person drops to one minute if there are more than 25 speakers on a side.

The commission's decision can be appealed to the City Council in writing within 10 days.

The city is the lead agency in the review process. Chevron's proposal also must secure permits from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and the California Energy Commission to move ahead.

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

IF YOU GO

  WHAT: Richmond Planning Commission public hearing on Chevron Richmond Refinery renewal project

  WHEN: 7 tonight

  WHERE: Richmond City Council chamber, 1401 Marina Way S.