|Dueling Opinions on Chevron Impasse Play
Out in Local Press
August 21, 2009
this week, a full page ad in the Contra Costa Times featured “An
Open Letter to Chevron and the City of Richmond from Mechanics Bank.”
Although the letter concluded with “It is imperative for our community
that all parties reach a swift, reasonable resolution so that Richmond
and its citizens can get back to work quickly,” Mechanics Bank left no
doubt who they blamed for the impasse – the environmental groups who
have prevailed so far in the lawsuit challenging the EIR:
Worst of all, the reason given for opposing Chevron's plant upgrade doesn't stand up to scrutiny. Despite opponents' claims of environmental degradation, the City of Richmond, the State Attorney General's office, and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District concluded after four years of review that the refinery upgrade would actually reduce emissions!
Yesterday, the Contra Costa Times countered with the following editorial that put the blame squarely on Chevron.
Editorial: The ball is in Chevron's court concerning the Richmond refinery
Posted: 08/20/2009 12:01:00 AM PDT
THE IMPASSE between Chevron and environmentalists over renovations at the Richmond refinery is indeed puzzling.
Environmental groups won a lawsuit challenging the oil company's environmental impact report regarding the refinery's ability and intent to process heavy crude oil, which would increase air pollution, after extensive retrofit work is completed.
Chevron says the changes to the refinery will result in less pollution and that it has no plans to refine heavy crude oil.
If that is the case, why won't Chevron agree to a cap that would guarantee that the refinery would not start processing the heavy, dirtier crude?
Chevron's answer is unsatisfactory. Spokesman Brent Tippen said the refinery's work is already heavily regulated. That is true but beside the point.
Tippen added that the refinery lacks the equipment to refine heavier crude and permits already prevent Chevron from doing so.
The question remains: Why not agree to a crude cap?
Tippen responded that a crude cap barring the processing of heavy oil would not add to environmental protection.
A divided City Council sided with Chevron and approved the renovation project with a cap on the type of oil running through a solvent deasphalting unit.
However, environmentalists were not satisfied because there was no cap on a second stream of crude that enters the refinery and bypasses the solvent deasphalting unit.
Superior Court Judge Barbara Zuniga agreed that Chevron's EIR was vague and inconsistent on whether heavier crude would be processed.
The deadlock over the refinery project is more than an esoteric debate over which type of crude is going to be processed. It has resulted in the stoppage of a major construction project that has put 1,000 people out of work in the middle of a recession.
If Chevron refuses to accept some kind of cap on heavy crude, perhaps one that would be reviewed at a later date, one has to wonder just what Chevron's true intentions are.
The ball is in the oil company's court. It's past time for some clear answers that could lead to a quick settlement to a dispute that is costly to 1,000 workers, the city of Richmond and to Chevron itself.
Meanwhile, despite a billion dollar ad campaign about “Human Energy” (“The power of human energy – finding newer and cleaner ways of powering the world”), Chevron has mounted an aggressive lobbying campaign encouraging its employees to oppose federal legislation designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions:
Chevron backs oil group's 'Energy Citizens'
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Taking a leaf from the playbook employed by health care reform opponents, the oil industry has put together an "Energy Citizens" movement aimed at derailing climate-change legislation. And San Ramon's Chevron Corp. is throwing its weight behind the effort.
Among the estimated 3,500 "energy citizens" at a Houston rally on Tuesday were Chevron employees and retirees "invited ... to participate" by the company, which also provided buses for the estimated 250 to 350 of their number to get there. Chevron had "sent a memo to its downtown Houston employees encouraging them to attend (the) event, so they can be a part of the energy policy discussion," said company spokesman Morgan Crinklaw.
Similar rallies, which the American Petroleum Institute is coordinating, are planned for 22 cities across 19 states, so far not including California. They are meant to send a "loud message" to the U.S. Senate when it takes up the House-passed cap-and-trade bill next month, according to a memo from the industry trade group, of which Chevron is a prominent dues-paying member.
Crinklaw said Chevron "plans to offer the same opportunity to employees to participate in events taking place near our Farmington, N.M., and Anchorage, Alaska, offices."
According to the memo (links.sfgate.com/ZHYB), uncovered by the environmental organization Greenpeace, the rallies will "put a human face on the impacts of unsound energy policy ... on jobs and on consumers' energy costs." It urges oil company CEOs to "indicate ... your strong support for employee participation," while warning them to treat the memo as sensitive. "We don't want critics to know our game plan," said the institute's CEO, Jack Gerard.
Support and dissent: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and a number of state business organizations are on board with the program ( www.energycitizens.org). But not all API members are.
"We have expressed to API our position not to participate in the upcoming Citizen Energy rallies," said Royal Dutch Shell in a statement. "Shell is not encouraging nor discouraging participation in the rally ... and we have asked employees who wish to attend to do so on their own time."
Shell, unlike Chevron, is also a member of the United States Climate Action Partnership, a business and environmental coalition favoring government action, including cap and trade, to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Chevron sees it differently.
"We support a national approach to addressing greenhouse gas emissions," said Crinklaw. "However, Chevron is unable to support the (House of Representatives) Waxman-Markey bill in its current form because of its inequitable treatment of the oil and gas industry and our belief that transportation fuels should be addressed outside of a cap-and-trade system.
"Chevron believes that a cap-and-trade program could work for stationary source emissions if it is designed properly."
This article appeared on page C - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle