|Chevron Appeal - A Report From The Front
July 16, 2008
Attached is a compendium of local media coverage of the hearings last night on appeals of the Chevron Energy and Hydrogen Renewal Project. The salient developments are:
· Just before the meeting, the city manager distributed a proposed “Community Benefits Agreement” he had just received from Chevron. It described $61 million that Chevron committed to spend on community programs and projects over a six-year period with the quid pro quo that the project is permitted and constructed.
· I believe about 150 people signed up to speak, about 1/3 Chevron advocates and 2/3 or more CBE advocates. Fifty or more had left by the time they were called up until the hearing ended at midnight.
· Chevron advocates, with the exception of perhaps two, were almost totally union members who touted the value of jobs and the safety of the refinery. With perhaps one exception, all Chevron supporters were on Chevron’s payroll in one way or another.
· The City’s prime expert, Dr. Sahu, admitted that his refinery experience was largely working for oil companies.
· The City’s prime experts on solar energy as a mitigation admitted that they were not licensed engineers had no experience designing or building solar energy installations.
The hearing will resume tonight with rebuttals by the appellants, questions by Council members to staff and appellants, deliberations and possibly a decision. The late arrival of the Community Benefit Agreement poses a real problem for an early resolution, which is believed to be the goal of the Council majority. Ludmyrna Lopez is expecting a baby in a couple of weeks and plans to take off until after the November election, and others are concerned that a protracted decision-making process will become an election issue that could damage the prospects for re-election of three members of the coalition.
Richmond council to resume Chevron deliberations tonight
Article Launched: 07/16/2008 05:18:31 AM PDT
Deliberation on Chevron's contentious bid to upgrade decades-old equipment at its Richmond refinery continues tonight.
The Richmond City Council recessed its decision-making hearing at about 12:05 a.m. today and will resume at 7 p.m. at Kennedy High School's multipurpose room.
The council must decide whether Chevron's plan to replace its power plant, hydrogen plant and reformer will move forward. The Planning Commission last month approved a permit along with about 70 provisions, but neither Chevron nor environmental activists are satisfied. Both are appealing that ruling to the council.
The appeals began Tuesday night before a packed house of more than 400 people. The project would bring much-needed jobs and begin to reverse the city's violent crime rate, supporters said.
"Jobs give you prestige and self-esteem about yourself," said Richmond resident Antwone Cloird, a Chevron employee. "This is going to change lives."
Opponents said they want good-paying jobs for locals too, but the project poses a public health risk that must be thoroughly studied and mitigated first.
"We can have good union jobs and clean air," resident Susan Meeter said.
Debate about Chevron's proposal has centered on whether the upgrades are environmentally sound. Critics contend the upgrades would enable the processing of heavier, more contaminated crude that would increase pollutants and health problems.
It is a charge refinery representatives have denied. The refinery would process a wider range of crude with higher sulfur content, but the oil would remain in the same light to intermediate range it is now and overall emissions would not increase, they argued.
Councilman Tom Butt asked refinery representatives if they would be willing to accept more comprehensive restrictions on crude to ease public fears, a question that is similar to what a planning commissioner posed earlier this year. But Chevron again declined, saying such restrictions are precedent-setting and could tie its hands when it comes to adapting to a changing crude market.
Also on Tuesday, City Manager Bill Lindsay announced that Chevron submitted a proposed "community benefits agreement" that would pump $61.6 million into city services, such as more police officers, job training for residents and healthcare for the poor.
The agreement is no substitute for environmental safeguards, opponents said.
"Money cannot buy our health," said Richmond resident Torm Nompraseurt, a member of the Asian Pacific Environmental Network.
Emotions ran high both during the hearing and before it. Moments before the hearing started, opponents gathered outside and read the names of individuals who they say died of health issues attributed to environmental problems.
"Communities like North Richmond and Parchester on the front lines of the chemical assault have taken their fair share of environmental pollution," said Henry Clark, executive director of the West County Toxics Coalition. "We don't want anymore."
Chevron supporters clad in "Yes Renewal Project" T-shirts countered by chanting, "We need more jobs."
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Lively meeting expected on Chevron expansion
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
More than 1,000 people jammed a Richmond City Council meeting Tuesday night to make impassioned pleas for and against Chevron's plan to expand its waterfront refinery.
The City Council is expected to meet again tonight to vote on the issue, which has galvanized environmentalists, community groups and labor unions.
"We're driving to the hospital while Chevron goes to the bank," said Rev. Kenneth Davis, a Richmond resident. "My health is not for sale."
Chevron wants to build a new power plant and crude-oil refining facility at its 3,000-acre plant. Material processed at the new facility would contain higher levels of sulfur and other contaminants, city officials have said.
The Richmond Planning Commission initially approved the plan, with a limit on the amount of heavy crude oil the refinery can process. But on June 19, the commission reversed its decision, lifting the cap after a city-hired consultant said the refinery's emissions are already limited so a cap isn't necessary.
Chevron and environmental groups both appealed the Planning Commission's decision to the City Council.
"I'm swayed by those who've asked for a more comprehensive crude-oil cap," City Councilman Tony Thurmond said. "My concerns are what the environmental, health and safety impacts will be, especially in a community with such a high rate of asthma and other illness."
Chevron has said that the new facility would produce an insignificant increase in air pollution, and that the project would actually decrease overall emissions.
"This project has no significant environmental impacts. That's a remarkable achievement for a project of this magnitude," said Bob Chamberlin, an environmental specialist for Chevron. "In fact, this project makes things even better."
Labor groups have been pushing for the expansion because of the new jobs that would be created during construction.
But environmental groups have decried Chevron's plan, saying it would unleash dangerous amounts of mercury, selenium and sulfur into the air and water.
"The potential for more emissions is enormous. Because this facility will allow them to process lower-quality crude," said Adrienne Bloch, a senior attorney with Communities for a Better Environment.
Before the meeting, Chevron told the city it would give $61 million in health, education, environmental and alternative energy programs to mitigate for the project.
Environmental groups said that it wasn't enough, and that Chevron was required to do many of those programs anyway.
City Councilman Tom Butt said he would like to see Chevron do more for Richmond residents, such as offering health, education and employment programs, and reduce its emissions overall.
"My No. 1 priority is, I want to be sure this project is not going to cause any increase in air or water pollutants. It's pretty simple," he said. "A lot of us believe this project is going to have an adverse impact on the community, and that's something Chevron should mitigate."
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Richmond Residents Weigh In On Refinery Expansion
RICHMOND (CBS 5) ―
Hundreds packed Kennedy High School Tuesday night to weigh in on
a proposal to re-develop the Chevron Refinery in Richmond. While many
city residents are against the plan, Chevron attempted to sweeten the
(© MMVIII, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.)
07/16 5:50 AM
The Richmond Chevron facility has the capacity to refine 350,000 barrels of crude oil a day and now the White House is pushing for more production. However, Richmond is no longer that company town it used to be. Tuesday night, Chevron had to face some disillusioned longtime residents and a more independent city council.
"I'm one of those who have chronic asthma. I wasn't sick until I came to Richmond a couple of years afterwards," said Jackie Thompson, a Richmond resident.
Richmond residents want to know if Chevron's proposed expansion will refine heavier, low-grade crude which causes more pollution. The city hired a petroleum expert to find out.
"So I reviewed what was in the record," said Ranajit Sahu, a Richmond city consultant.
Ranajit says Chevron is taking all precautions to prevent more pollution, but a non-profit group, called Communities for a Better Environment, says the improvements will allow Chevron to refine heavy crude.
"Chevron's oil switch could greatly increase global warming emissions, flare sulfur dioxide and VOC emissions, catastrophic incident risk," said Greg Karass, form Communities for a Better Environment.
"The refinery is currently configured to run light to medium crude. It will stay that way as a result of the project. On account of our configuration our product mix and our need to keep all parts of the refinery full we cannot change," said Bob Chamberlin, a Chevron Environmental Specialist.
The meeting was divided between those who are leery of Chevron's promise and those who support the expansion primarily because it will create 1,200 construction jobs.
"Look at the murder rate. Give some of these kids some jobs and watch some guns get put down," said Antoine Cloy, from Union Laborers Local 324.
"I keep telling the council and planning commission about environmental racism, environmental injustice," said Dr. Henry Clark M.D., from the West County Toxics Coalition.
Tuesday night, Chevron also offered the city $61 million in community benefits over 10 years.
Chevron is appealing the city planning commission's condition that it must reduce 430,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year. It claims it would not create that much pollution, but it does not want the restriction because Chevron says it would set a president on future production.
So Chevron wants the capacity to refine heavy crude, but it says it will only refine light to mid grade crude. That's wasn't playing well with people at the meeting. There were more than 400 people who wanted to speak at the meeting. There were so many that wanted to voice their opinion that the meeting will be continued Wednesday night at 7 p.m. at Kennedy High School.
(Copyright ©2008 KGO-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)
Asian Pacific Environmental Network
Communities for a Better Environment
West County Toxics Coalition
For Immediate Release July 16, 2008
Chevron Offers Richmond’s City Council $61 Million To Approve Its Polluting Expansion Project
Richmond Residents and Bay Area Community say, “Our health is not for sale”
Richmond, CA—Over 500 Bay Area residents attended a Richmond City Council public hearing last night on Chevron’s bid to expand the Richmond refinery to process dirtier crude oil. The plant expansion is seen as a dramatic step in the wrong direction in the effort to decrease pollution-related health risks and climate change in Richmond and the Bay Area. The City Council is expected to issue a final vote tonight.
In a last minute effort to lock-in City Council approval for Chevron’s refinery expansion, Chevron presented the City of Richmond a $61 million dollar ‘Community Benefit Agreement’ (CBA). The Agreement, submitted to the city council in closed session immediately before the public council hearing, would reportedly include $6.75 million for jobs and education programs, $6 million for community health programs, and requires the City Council’s approval of the polluting expansion project to take effect. Other elements of Chevron’s proposal include requiring the City to propose the implementation of standards that would exempt Chevron projects from design review and would result in changes to the City’s land-use process for Chevron projects.
“Chevron’s pay-off is an insult to the residents of Richmond,” said Dr. Henry Clark of the West County Toxics Coalition. “Chevron should pay more than $61 million for decades of poisoning our communities. And the demand for environmental justice means Chevron should not be allowed to pollute us any more.”
“$61 million over a decade in comparison to the $50 million a day Chevron spends on oil expansion is insulting – these are Chevron’s crumbs,” said Jessica Tovar of the Community for a Better Environment. “Our health is more important than Chevron’s wealth.”
As indicated by a poll released earlier this week, conducted by David Binder Research and commissioned by the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, an overwhelming majority (73 %) of voters support the City Council delaying a decision on the Chevron expansion until the environmental and health impacts of refining heavier, dirtier crude oil is fully reviewed by the City. In anticipation of Chevron’s effort to pressure the City Council with the CBA, the poll also showed that 75% of Richmond voters think that it is important that potential projects to be funded be determined in an open public process, which the CBA undermines.
“Of course Richmond needs resources for schools, safety, and public health. But if the City Council approves Chevron’s dirty oil refining project in exchange for $61 million, it is condemning another generation of kids in Richmond to a future of asthma, cancer, and other health problems,” said Roger Kim, Associate Director of the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, in response to Chevron’s CBA. “This looks like a last-ditch effort to induce the City Council to approve Chevron’s dirty oil refining project and we hope the council knows better than to take it.”
The Richmond Alliance for Environmental Justice— a coalition of community groups that represent thousands of Richmond families—is demanding the city council establish a ‘comprehensive crude cap’ to ensure the Chevron refinery is limited from processing dirtier crude oils. In addition, the Alliance is demanding a Chevron pay into the “Fund for Richmond’s Future” – a community-controlled fund to support the development of a cleaner and greener economy in Richmond.
Richmond Alliance for Environmental Justice includes: Atchison Village Environment Committee, Communities for a Better Environment, West County Toxics Coalition, Laotian Organizing Project/Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Richmond Progressive Alliance, Richmond Greens, Richmond Vision 2000, ACORN Contra Costa County, Richmond Equitable Development Initiative, Urban Habitat, Faithworks!, East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, Rainforest Action Network, Amazon Watch, Direct Action to Stop the War, Greenaction, and Genesis (partial list).