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  Will Chevron Come to the Table?
April 29, 2010

California Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John Perez have invited Chevron and the Plaintiffs in the Chevron refinery litigation to sit down on May 4 to negotiate a settlement. The plaintiffs have accepted, but Chevron is still considering its options.
Listen to an interesting debate hosted by KQED’s Michael Krasny between Chevron’s Dean O’Hara and CBE’s Greg Karras at http://www.kqed.org/epArchive/R201004290931.

An article form today’s Sacramento Bee appears below:

This story is taken from Sacbee / Opinion / Editorials

Editorial: Time to end lawsuit on Chevron refinery

Published Thursday, Apr. 29, 2010

For the last several months, Chevron and neighbors of its refinery in Richmond have been locked in lose-lose litigation that has benefited neither workers nor the environment.
The time has come for both sides to reach a settlement. If they did, 1,000 union laborers could get back to work and Chevron would begin the task of improving its relationship with East Bay communities.
In dispute is Chevron's plan to upgrade its 108-year-old refinery on the San Pablo Bay. Neighbors and environmentalists sued, alleging, among other things, that Chevron was hiding plans to process much heavier crude oil, resulting in extra pollution.
In July, a Contra Costa Superior Court judge sided with environmentalists, bringing the project to a halt. Chevron appealed to the state Court of Appeals. On Monday, that court again ruled against Chevron, sidetracking its upgrade until the company fixes shortcomings in its environmental report.
Leaders of the coalition filing the lawsuit – West County Toxics Coalition, Community for a Better Environment and the Asian Pacific Environment Network – have offered to engage in settlement talks. Their goal, they claim, is not to block the refinery upgrade. They just want the company to commit to mitigations that won't increase toxic pollution or greenhouse gases emitted from the refinery.
For its part, Chevron claims it has no plans to refine heavier crude oil and is largely seeking to make its plant more efficient. In its ruling, however, the state appeals court found evidence that Chevron does want to refine heavier crude, based on an SEC filing by the company.
Litigation is a blunt tool, and in the wrong hands, the California Environmental Quality Act can be abused. Yet in this case, residents of Richmond deserve some assurance that the air they breathe won't be further degraded.
Chevron has shown signs this week of wanting to settle this case. It should, and environmentalists should show a willingness to broker a settlement. A resolution could quickly put 1,000 people back to work.
© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Following is a press release from Environmental Justice Groups:

For Immediate Release:  April 29, 2010
Contacts:  Deborah Reames, Earthjustice (510) 550-6725
     Sandy Saeturn, APEN (510) 323-2623
                 Greg Karras, CBE (510) 250-7956
                 Henry Clark, WCTC (510) 232-3427

Environmental Justice Groups Accept Invitation to Negotiate Refinery Expansion
Groups agree to meet in Sacramento to discuss settlement; ball now in Chevron's court
Statement from Communities for a Better Environment, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, and West County Toxics Coalition:
OAKLAND, Calif.  – “Community groups representing residents in Richmond who live just across a fence line from Chevron’s refinery and breathe the pollution from that plant just won a major ruling from the state Court of Appeals.  The Court upheld the majority of findings in a lower court decision that the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the expansion of the Chevron Corporation’s refinery violated state environmental law. 

The Court found that the EIR should have addressed changes in the grade of crude oil the refinery would process after the expansion.  The expansion project would increase the refinery’s ability to process dirtier grades of crude oil according to three independent experts for the community, the State Attorney General’s office, and the Contra Costa Building Trades, all of whom independently reviewed Chevron’s plans.  The court also found fault with the EIR for failing to include specific and proven plans to mitigate a substantial increase in greenhouse gas emissions from the expansion.  This plant already is the single biggest industrial polluter of climate change gases in the state of California.  

Though the community’s position has been reaffirmed by the appellate court, we agree that there are people in Richmond – members of the communities we represent among them – who badly need the kind of skilled jobs the project would provide. These jobs don’t have to come at the cost of the health of the men, women and children who live near the facility.  There is a way to improve the refinery's efficiency and safety without increasing the toxic pollution residents must contend with every day of their lives.

Throughout the litigation process, we have repeatedly agreed to negotiate in order to arrive at a just and appropriate settlement.  We still think this is possible. 

We, therefore, accept the invitation from California Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John Perez to assist the parties in restarting settlement talks in Sacramento.  We thank them for their leadership.

We remain committed to a solution that is beneficial for both residents and those who need these jobs. Only Chevron can make it happen. We urge them again to work with us.”



Last year, CBE, APEN and WCTC issued a challenge to the Chevron renovation under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the 40-year-old law which requires California agencies to analyze and publicly disclose the potential environmental impacts of development projects. The intent of the challenge was to protect our children’s health; to do so, we must hold Chevron accountable for misrepresenting the project, failing to disclose the fact that the renovation would allow the company to process heavier crude resulting in increased air pollution and negative health effects, and failing to mitigate those negative effects. 

A state appeals court in San Francisco ruled on April 26 against Chevron's plans to renovate and expand its Richmond refinery. 

During the litigation CBE, APEN, and WCTC repeatedly agreed to negotiate to find a way forward that addresses both the economic and public health crises in Richmond – and Chevron has repeatedly refused to meet in a way that is transparent and accountable:

  • February 2010: Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and then-Assembly Speaker Karen Bass call a meeting to propose mediated negotiations; community groups attend and agree to negotiations; Chevron sends only a lobbyist at the first meeting and refuses to participate at all in the second;
  • January 2010: Community groups endorse Attorney General Jerry Brown’s settlement proposal; Chevron dismisses it;
  • August 2009: Community groups send an open letter to Chevron proposing a solution that would protect community health and get workers back to work immediately; Chevron said no;
  • July 2009: Attorney General Brown offers to mediate; community groups said yes, Chevron said no.