|Chevron News Clippings
July 2, 2009
Environmentalists want judge to stop construction at Chevron refinery in Richmond
Posted: 07/01/2009 03:19:33 PM PDT
Updated: 07/02/2009 06:23:49 AM PDT
Environmental groups are asking a Contra Costa Superior Court judge to halt construction on Chevron's retrofit of its Richmond plant to refine a wider range of crude.
The groups secured a victory in June when Judge Barbara Zuniga ruled that the project's environmental impact report was vague and inconsistent. The ruling did not specify if construction must stop. The environmental groups filed additional court papers this week, asking that permitting for the project be suspended until the city fixes the environmental report and that Chevron be given up to 60 days to demobilize as long as the activities don't involve new construction.
"Based on past litigation experience with Chevron, it could be many years after the project is complete and operating before the EIR is corrected if the project is not enjoined now," William Gallegos, executive director of Communities for a Better Environment, state in a court document.
Officials with the city of Richmond and Chevron say they aren't sure what they are legally required to do and are waiting for clarifying instructions from the court.
After months of contentious public hearings, the city granted Chevron permits last summer to replace its hydrogen plant, power plant and reformer to refine a wider range of crude that contains more sulfur.
The West County Toxics Coalition, Communities for a Better Environment and the Asian Pacific Environmental Network sued the city and Chevron in September.
The groups argue that the project enables Chevron to refine heavier crude that could increase pollution at the public's risk, and that the city-approved environmental report failed to analyze and mitigate possible impacts.
The city and Chevron disagree. Chevron contends the decades-old equipment needs to be replaced for safety reasons and that it will continue to refine light to intermediate crudes.
Last month's court ruling sided with the environmental groups and said the environmental report was not clear on whether heavier crude could be processed.
Construction on two of the four components of the project began in September.
"For now, we are continuing construction of the renewal project and plan to review our possible next steps once we've received further direction from the court," said Brent Tippen, refinery spokesman.
Chevron argues that halting construction would mean losing more than 1,000 jobs and hurt the oil company and its contractors financially. Several unions, including Steamfitters 342 — the largest on the project with as many as 600 workers — filed court statements opposing a construction stop because it would mean losing wages, health benefits and pension premiums for their members.
In her final ruling, Zuniga also found the environmental document did not take into account a proposal by Praxair to build a 22-mile underground pipeline that would carry hydrogen from plants at the Chevron Richmond refinery to Martinez and possibly Rodeo. The city also "improperly" deferred developing a plan to deal with greenhouse gases for a year, she said.
Reach Katherine Tam at 510-262-2787 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
EBMUD and Chevron team up to save water
It does not even have a lawn, but the Chevron refinery in Richmond has long been the East Bay Municipal Utility District's (EBMUD) biggest water user, consuming an average of 9 million gallons per day.
Right now, one-third of that is reclaimed or recycled, but with a new EBMUD project going up on Chevron property, the refinery could cut its water use by another third.
"We're going to double the amount of reclaimed water we're going to use, and that reduces the demand that we have for fresh water for the refinery," refinery general manager Mike Coyles said.
The project will treat reclaimed water sent to the plant by EBMUD and fed to another plant at the refinery, according to Teri Lizarraga. Lizarraga is the health, environmental and safety manager for the refinery.
When the project is completed next year, it will reduce the refinery's use of potable water by 3 million gallons per day.
"We've been providing about 4 million gallons per day of recycled water already to Chevron for its use in cooling towers from a plant we have at North Richmond, so what this project will do is actually expand recycled water services to Chevron to meet their needs in their boilers," EBMUD water recycling program manager Linda Hu said.
The extra water saved will be available to the surrounding community, enough to meet the daily needs of 12,000 households.
EBMUD has elected to end its mandatory rationing program July 1, but is still trying to make up for a deficit created by three straight years of below average rainfall.
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