|Council Members Defend Secret Chevron
July 9, 2008
In the face of criticism for hiring a consultant to make recommendations regarding mitigations and conditions for the Chevron Energy and Hydrogen Renewal project based on secret information available to neither the City Council nor the public, Council Members Marquez and Viramontes mailed a letter citywide discussing their “moral dilemma” and describing their search of their “hearts and minds for what is best” so they can make a “well-informed [??] decision.”Click here for a copy of the letter.
For more information, see Chevron Permit Will Be Based on Secret Information Inaccessible to Public, May 9, 2008, and the West County Times editorial, below:
Stop the secret oil deal
Article Launched: 05/11/2008 11:00:38 PM PDT
THE RICHMOND CITY Council decision to enter a secrecy deal with the Chevron refinery should offend anyone in the Bay Area who values open government.
The refinery, which is seeking permission to replace its hydrogen plant, power plant and reformer, says the proposed upgrades would make the facility safer and allow it to produce more California-grade gasoline. Opponents say the changes would lead to processing of heavier crude oil, thereby increasing air pollution and health problems.
The application is pending before the planning commission, which is seeking more technical advice before rendering a decision.
To help the review, the City Council last week agreed to hire an outside expert, Ranajit Sahu, to review the company's application, determine whether approval would lead to processing of heavier crude and determine the health effects.
We're glad to see that the City Council and the planning commission are taking the review of the application seriously. However, we're deeply troubled that the city agreed to allow Sahu to enter into a confidentiality agreement with Chevron to see documents he needs to complete his investigation.
The documents Sahu seeks pertain to the chemical compositions of the materials in the process. They go to the heart of the dispute. If Chevron wants approval of its expansion, it's application should be subjected to full public scrutiny.
Opponents should be allowed to review the technical material and, if necessary, hire their own experts to review it.
They should not have to rely solely on Sahu's evaluation, however good it might be.
There already is great distrust of the refinery in certain parts of the community. Such secrecy will only cast a shadow of doubt over any city decision.
Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and Councilmen Tom Butt and Tony Thurmond are to be commended for opposing the secrecy.
As Butt said, "I don't think it's right for this city to be making decisions based on information that the public doesn't have."
The other six members of the council, who were led by Councilwoman Maria Viramontes, should be ashamed.