|Life After Chevron?
December 29, 2009
Ever watch the popular History Channel series, “Life After People?” Well, it looks like we are playing “Life After Chevron” again in Richmond. According to a National Public Radio Program by Richard Gonzales:
Tensions over this and other tax disputes cause company officials to hint that it may be time to leave Richmond."The Richmond refinery has been here well over a hundred years, and we have had good times and bad times," says Mike Coyle, the refinery's general manager. "Nobody likes divorce."
After rolling out a slick new Richmond Refinery publication Chevron Richmond Today, (“In an effort to communicate with the surrounding community, Chevron has launched the first edition of Chevron Richmond Today, the official news magazine of Chevron Richmond. This is one of many new communications tools being utilized to dialogue with the surrounding community.
Chevron Richmond Today will be distributed quarterly…”) and handing out a million dollars to good little boys and girls (Yes, Richmond, There is a Santa Claus, November 24, 2009), Coyle is now talking divorce?
Of course, pulling out of Richmond is nothing new (Chevron Finally Pulls The Plug On Richmond, April 1, 2006), but how would a divorce work? Who would get the house, uh, refinery? The dog? The kids?
Would Chevron move into an apartment and just let Richmond have the run of the refinery? After the initial separation, would the oil company immediately start dating? It wouldn’t look good, but we all know Chevron has needs.
These are difficult questions to answer, and Richmond will need the best legal counsel money can buy. One huge concern is whether or not Chevron has a prenup. After all, this marriage has lasted about 110 years, and who knows what dusty agreements might lurk in some dark Chevron vault.
I for one think there is still time for reconciliation. What Richmond and Chevron need is a good marriage counselor. I am convinced that after a few sessions with the right professional, these warring spouses will kiss and make up, but Chevron will probably have to offer more than flowers. A large carat diamond might do the job.
Chevron Threatens To Leave Longtime Home
December 28, 2009
Audio for this story from All Things Considered will be available at approx. 7:00 p.m. ET
Enlarge Noah Berger/AP
Smoke billows from a Chevron Corp. refinery in Richmond, Calif. The refinery is the largest producer of greenhouse gases in the state.
December 28, 2009
The biggest producer of greenhouse gases in California is the Chevron Corp.'s oil refinery in the Bay Area town of Richmond, just east of San Francisco.
The refinery opened more than a century ago, and in spite of the bad air, Richmond has always been a loyal company town.
The refinery is nestled on a bank of hills right next to the San Francisco Bay. It's a Byzantine complex of tanks, steam boilers and 8,000 miles of piping. The refinery produces jet fuel, gasoline and diesel.
Over the past century, the Richmond refinery has prospered, helping Chevron make billions in profits.
And those profits are a target of the city's green mayor, Gayle McLaughlin, who has been trying to raise Chevron's local taxes.
"Richmond has suffered, especially in the neighborhoods near the refinery," McLaughlin says.
She points to high rates of asthma, cancer and heart disease in the neighborhoods affected by the refinery's pollution.
Time To Split Town?
McLaughlin also backed a voter effort to raise Chevron's business license fees, a measure a judge later overturned. Tensions over this and other tax disputes cause company officials to hint that it may be time to leave Richmond.
"The Richmond refinery has been here well over a hundred years, and we have had good times and bad times," says Mike Coyle, the refinery's general manager. "Nobody likes divorce."
McLaughlin thinks Chevron's talk of moving is a bluff. But the company says it needs to stay competitive, and to do that it wants some major technical upgrades to the refinery. So far, however, a local judge has temporarily blocked the upgrades, pending more environmental review.
Meanwhile, Chevron's local critics are emboldened. At a recent demonstration, activists protested the refinery, calling it a corporate polluter and accusing it of ignoring the needs of the community.
The Evolving Corporate Citizen
In reaction to rising tensions, Chevron is trying to boost its local image. It says it will spend more than $3 million this year helping Richmond's nonprofits and economic development projects.
One of those groups is Solar Richmond, an organization that trains workers to install solar panels on homes. The company just received a small grant from Chevron to train another 45 workers.
Kandea Mosley, director of sales and marketing at the organization, said her group didn't hesitate to take Chevron's money.
"Chevron is grappling with what it means to be a 21st century corporate citizen," Mosley says. "And to the extent that we can work together and accelerate renewable energy adoption and create employment opportunities right here at home in Richmond, we want to be part of that work."
Winning new friends could forestall talk of the refinery leaving. Still, many are wondering how the marriage between Chevron and the city of Richmond can be saved.