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
Comments on This (Early) Morning's Planning Commission Hearing on Chevron

Following are comments I received from several Richmond residents and copies of stories in today’s West County Times:


It was a very long meeting, filled with technical information that I didn't completely understand.  But I am very happy that I attended. Chevron's presentation was very slick; and at the end of their one-hour slot, I felt that maybe I had been wrong in reacting so negatively to this expansion.  They seemed to cover all the points that would cast doubt on the advisability of going ahead with their plan.  But then we got to hear from the opposing side, and they did an outstanding job in presenting their facts.  Henry Clark's presentation strongly pointed out the laws concerning Environmental Injustice, as well as the fact that there had been no studies or conversations  with the communities so negatively impacted by Chevron's current environmental issues. We heard from a residents from these areas, particularly Atchison Village, about the shocking percentage of residents who have either died or are suffering from cancer.  I was lucky enough to get a seat in the conference room (most of it was filled with Chevron employees, while concerned residents of the community were forced to sit out in a tent!), and I sat in the section the group from the Communities for Better Environment had saved.  Sitting with them allowed conversation with some of the people whose families had been adversely affected with these environmental issues.  I was most impressed with the CBE presenter Greg Karras, who is a highly educated scientist experienced in environmental impact issues.  His very thorough examination of the matters of concern were presented in a calm, easy-to-understand voice and manner.  If the questions he raised do not lead to the recommendation for additional work on and recirculation of the EIR, I will be shocked and totally disgusted in our leaders.  I have written my letters to the Planning Committee as well as City Council people.  Now I will just keep my fingers crossed that good judgment (and, to take it a step further, SANITY!) will prevail.

*  *   *


It's interesting that Chevron people were there at 5 pm and took up 75% of the interior seating.  The company knows how to work an issue.


It's interesting too that the tallest person among the Chevron "suits" was Mrs. xxxxxxx from Rodeo.  I'm sorry I do not know her name.  When she backed up Dean at the podium, the scene would have been perfect if she put her hand on this shoulder "to steady him."  As it was, they should have made her the lead person.  She is a striking presence, and smart.


Did you know that those of us in the audience had a difficult time reading Chevron's PP slides?  The ceiling lights made the slides very dim.  The slides' small print made them difficult to read in any light.  The "flow chart" was the worst example.  It was just impenetrable.  No one in the audience complained because they were mainly Chevron people, chamber people, or CBE people who were not interested in the slides.  They came with things to say; learning was not on their agenda.  What a waste of time.


Jeff's questions were right on the mark.  Rao's questions were unhelpful.  Williams was next to useless, as usual.  If not for Virginia and Jeff, the evening would have been a real mess.  Too bad that Chevron is getting until April 20 to prepare their rebuttal.  Everyone else had to think on their feet, on the spot.


I stayed until the break and watched Greg Karras at home.....where I could actually see things.


*  *   *


I attended last night's meeting, arriving at 4.30pm in order to secure a seat. As the City Hall employees vacated the parking lot at 5pm, it was immediately filled by Chevron employees, who practically filled the hall, complemented by Chevron's Fire Fighters in full regalia, and finished off by the Police, all filling 4 rows of standing room. By 6.30pm Richmond residents were barred, by the police, from entering the building, not even allowed to use the public rest rooms and directed to an overflow tent.

Chevron employees all signed to speak for their given 1 minute. Thus they spoke, all repeating each other, until 11.30pm.  By this time, I counted over 50 absent Residents, who had signed to speak, but due to the very late hour, and unable to use the rest rooms, had just gone home. Many residents from inside the hall also left in anger and frustration. These ordinary folk were denied their right to speak, were treated in a disgusting way, by people who are paid out of our taxes...Public servants.            WHO IS TO STAND ON THE SIDE OF THE PEOPLE?

May I kindly ask, is there any way we can involve the California Governor’s Office, and the City Attorney General’s Office, (in light of their advice re the EIR)  Can ordinary folk just write and ask for the help of the Hierarchy of this state. What can we do before the *conclusion* meeting on April 10th... which will not allow public input?   Thank you for your time and advice.


*  *   *


Sounds to me like Chevon was very well organized and ready for bear. Sounds like they didn't want to lose. They have been around polluting the air in Richmond for many, many years.  An educated man told me "people have gotten sick and then well for many years, so just give it up for Chevron's expansion."  I object to that.  It's similar to saying "we are the poor here in Richmond, we don't DESERVE police protection.  That kind of attitude will get us nowhere, but sicker!

*   *   * 

Planning Commissioners: I have lived in Richmond for over 15 years now.  My home overlooks the 580 freeway, directly opposite from Chevron.  As a close neighbor of Chevron, I felt as if I deserved to have my voice heard on the matter of the Chevron EIR. 


Yesterday I showed up at City Hall around 6:30 to get a seat for the meeting.  The scene outside the council chambers was chaotic.  The door to the council chambers was being blocked by two Richmond Police officers.  There was no City staff member around to help direct people or give information on how to get on the list of speakers.  When I went to the overflow tent, there was a fellow outside wearing what I thought were City ID tags (though in retrospect may have been Chevron) who told me that that seating was for Chevron only. As the tent was already full, it didn't really matter, but still there should have been someone from the City outside directing people   If I encountered this kind of confusion and obstacles at 6:30, imagine all the other people who arrived later.  Disappointed that my voice wouldn't be heard, I went home to watch the proceedings on TV.


I can perhaps understand your reasoning into categorize the public comments into those supporting vs opposing.  It seemed to be a realistic move so at the least you can get a count of where people stood.  However, I do not understand the choice to have everyone who approved go first, leaving those who opposed to speak late late in the evening.  How could it could not have been in order of people signing up to speak?  Or alternate 10 supporters, 10 opponents?  The appearance, to this observer, was that the Commission was being overly solicitous towards Chevron, and uncaring towards their own citizens.


It is a pity that those who oppose this project never got their voices heard.  You would have been able to hear people's very personal stories of living next to the refinery and perhaps some scientific or political information that you previously didn't have.  Instead the prevailing voices were of self-interested Chevron employees and union members.  Perhaps there was more diversity in the support, but frankly I fell asleep on the couch after my first dozen Chevron employees spouting the company  line.  When I awoke around 11 it was to the roll calls of speakers in opposition who had long left so that they can get up and go to work this morning.  So, perhaps less than a quarter of opponenst who had signed up had actually had a chance to get their voices heard.  So, all you were left with to determine public sentiment was a gross count of those four vs those against.  Sure, there were almost twice as many supporters than opponents. But how many of those supporters actually lived in Richmond?  How many were on the company clock?  How many opponents were turned away at the door, like myself?


Since you are planning on the continuing these hearings in three weeks or so, I believe you should once again open up the public comments to those whose voices didn't get a fair hearing before.


Please do the right thing for the citizens of Richmond and let all of our voices be heard in this important matter.


Planners delay decision on Chevron's Richmond refinery upgrades

By Katherine Tam


Article Launched: 03/21/2008 10:53:53 AM PDT


A decision on whether Chevron can upgrade equipment at its Richmond refinery is at least three weeks away.

After five hours of testimony before a packed house Thursday night, the Richmond Planning Commission decided at about 12:30 this morning to continue its decision-making hearing until April 10. The hearing will resume at 7 p.m.

Hundreds of people packed the City Hall chamber starting at least an hour before the hearing, with the crowd spilling into the parking lot outside. Police officers limited the number of people in the chamber for fire safety reasons, but the decision upset many who waited outside. Some people said they were not allowed in the building, even to use the restroom.

Chevron is proposing to replace its hydrogen plant, power plant and reformer. The company would process the same amount of oil, but the new equipment would allow it to refine a wider range of crude and produce 6 percent more California grade gasoline a day, according to the environmental impact report.

Refinery representatives said the upgrades will mean a safer and more efficient facility that will supply hundreds of construction jobs. Critics contend it will open the door to refining more contaminated crude oil that will increase pollution and create a health hazard.

The Planning Commission must determine if the environmental impact report is complete and whether the project should be approved. Opponents say the EIR is incomplete, and needs to be redone and recirculated.

Chevron disagrees.

A city consultant said Thursday night that an argument could be made for recirculation of the EIR.

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

Large crowd turns out for meeting on refinery proposal

The Associated Press

Article Launched: 03/21/2008 09:13:22 AM PDT


RICHMOND, Calif.—It was an overflow crowd as hundreds of Richmond residents turned out to hear a pitch from Chevron executives seeking to upgrade the company's 106-year-old refinery.

About 400 people crowded into the City Council chambers and a large tent erected outside Thursday as three Chevron managers tried to convince the city's planning commission to approve a plan to upgrade the 3,000-acre refinery.

Chevron wants to replace the aging refinery with a new power plant and new production facility.

Company officials say with the improvements, the plant could process a wider range of crude oil, including oil that contains larger amounts of sulfur and other impurities.

But opponents blasted the proposal, saying the changes would rain more pollution and toxic chemicals on Richmond.

They're asking the planning commission to delay the expansion until more studies can be made.

It's not clear when the commission would decide on Chevron's request.


Information from: San Francisco Chronicle, http://www.sfgate.com/chronicle

Chevron, foes spar over plan

·  Richmond City Hall packed for hearing on refinery upgrade some say would lead to variety of health issues

By Katherine Tam


Article Launched: 03/21/2008 03:11:50 AM PDT


RICHMOND -- Chevron made its case before a packed house Thursday night for why its bid to upgrade equipment at the Richmond refinery should move forward, while opponents blasted the project as a public health hazard.

More than 250 people packed City Hall chambers and spilled out into the parking lot for the Planning Commission's decision-making public hearing. A crowd outside wore medical masks and carried signs reading "Chevron Lies" and "Clean Air, Healthy Kids."

Refinery officials contend that their project will pave the way for a better and more efficient facility.

"The refinery made substantial reductions in air emissions since the 1970s," said Bob Chamberlin of the Richmond refinery. "Our situation is not getting worse; it's getting better."

But environmental activists fear the project will increase air pollution and lead to health problems.

"It doesn't meet the requirements of environmental justice," said Henry Clark, leader of the West County Toxic Coalition. "It doesn't meet the spirit and requirement of the law."

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 environmental impact report released in January.

Chevron would produce 6 percent more California-grade gasoline a day. The oil company still would refine light to intermediate crude oil, but the sulfur content in the crude is expected to increase from 1.7 percent to as much as 3 percent, according to the report.

In a letter to the city, state Attorney General Jerry Brown raised concerns that the environmental report did not fully analyze some air emissions, greenhouse gas emissions and mitigation measures.

Ellen Garber, a consultant for the city, said an argument could be made that the environmental report is not complete in addressing greenhouse gas emissions, and that it must be recirculated.

The Planning Commission would have to certify that the document is complete before any permits are granted.

Opponents concur that the environmental report is incomplete; Chevron disagreed.

The Planning Commission was still hearing testimony and had not made a decision by late Thursday.

City planners had listed a series of measures intended to reduce pollutants and other impacts if the project is approved. Chevron would pay the city $1.7 million to offset greenhouse gas emissions, $600,000 for city employment and training programs, and spend $400,000 to run an industrial job training academy. The oil company also would donate land to connect the Bay Trail to the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge.

Every year, Chevron would submit a report on how it has met these provisions, and the Planning Commission would hold hearings.

Refinery officials described the measures as "excessive" and that they would require Chevron to go above and beyond the mitigation measures outlined in the environmental report.

According to the report, annual emissions in three categories of air pollutants will drop if the project moves forward. Emissions in two other categories will increase at levels that are deemed less than significant under state guidelines after mitigation measures are taken, the document states.

These include volatile organic compounds, which the draft environmental report estimated to be nearly twice what is allowed by law. Since then, Chevron agreed to put a lid on two tanks, which is expected to cut volatile organic compound emissions to a point where the effects would be less than significant, according to the final environmental report.

The project would produce as much as an additional 898,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions a year. The environmental report prescribes seven measures to mitigate that increase.

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