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Let's Get This Show on the Road

The editorial that appeared in today’s Contra Costa Times could not have said it better. I urge both plaintiffs and defendants in the Chevron EIR challenge to continue meeting non-stop until this gets resolved.


You can communicate your encouragement to the principals in the lawsuit by clicking on “reply to all” or by phoning the pertinent individuals:


·         Will Rostov, Earthjustice, (510) 550-6725

·         Torm Nompraseurt, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, (510) 323-5245

·         Greg Karras, Communities for a Better Environment, (415) 902-2666

·         Henry Clark, West County Toxics Coalition, (510) 232-3427

·         Mike Coyle Tel 510 242 2000

·         Brent Tippen, Chevron Richmond Refinery Public Affairs at 510-242-4700


Editorial: Chevron refinery project should proceed with better EIR

MediaNews editorial

Posted: 07/19/2009 12:01:00 AM PDT

THE CITY OF Richmond, Chevron and 1,000 union workers are paying the price for a flawed agreement approving the oil company's $1 billion refinery upgrade. The hotly debated deal to accept Chevron's refinery project passed on a 5-4 vote last year over strong objections that the environmental impact report was incomplete.

Environmental groups sued, but work on the project began and was well under way when it was ordered to a halt earlier this month by Superior Court Judge Barbara Zuniga.

She correctly determined that the project's EIR was vague on whether new equipment being installed at the refinery that would enable the processing of heavier crude oil would increase pollution to unhealthy levels.

Chevron says that it plans to refine lighter oil but that it needed greater flexibility to refine other grades of oil if necessary.

However, as long as the upgraded Chevron plant will have the capacity to refine oil that poses an environmental threat, the EIR should have fully addressed the potential harm and remedies to keep a lid on polluting emissions.

That was the conclusion of environmental groups, four of the nine Richmond City Council members and even some local unions at an earlier date.

However, the council majority, Chevron and national union leaders, worked out a deal in advance of the final council vote, with insufficient attention to the concerns of Richmond residents,

environmentalists and local unions.

Chevron was allowed to go ahead with all its refinery changes, the unions would get up to 2,000 jobs at the height of the project, and the city would pick up $61 million in community benefits.

Unfortunately, the deal did not pass legal muster. Now 1,000 jobs are being lost, at least temporarily, the refinery upgrades, most of which will actually reduce pollution, will be delayed and Richmond could lose millions of dollars it counted on in its latest budget.

What is particularly dismaying about the whole situation is that the refinery upgrades, good-paying jobs and more revenue for Richmond could have been approved without a lawsuit or threat to the environment.

Had the Richmond City Council acted in a more open and thoughtful manner, it would have insisted on a proper EIR with environmental safeguards. Chevron may have had to make some adjustments in its plans, but that would have been far better than being on the losing end of a lawsuit.

There are some lessons to be learned from both the substance of the refinery deal and the way in which it was made. The environmental concerns were real and should have been dealt with in an open and complete manner.

The health of Richmond residents should not have been subject to potential risk, and the city and local unions should not have been bypassed.

Fortunately, all is not lost. Chevron's refinery updating project can and should proceed. Most of the changes will reduce pollution by replacing outdated equipment.

The oil firm also may well be able to have the capacity to refine heavy crude as long as there are proper and well-defined safeguards in a more accurate EIR. Also, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District is prepared to offer its services in monitoring pollution.

Instead of pursuing litigation and allotting blame, Chevron, Richmond, local unions, environmental groups and the air board need to work together to achieve a complete EIR that assures area residents there is no increased health risk.

We trust that an agreement can be reached in a timely manner that will allow Chevron to update its refinery, create jobs and continue providing Richmond with community funds.