Richmond council to resume Chevron deliberations tonight
Deliberation on Chevron's contentious bid to upgrade decades-old equipment at its Richmond refinery continues tonight.
The Richmond City Council recessed its decision-making hearing at about 12:05 a.m. today and will resume at 7 p.m. at Kennedy High School's multipurpose room.
The council must decide whether Chevron's plan to replace its power plant, hydrogen plant and reformer will move forward. The Planning Commission last month approved a permit along with about 70 provisions, but neither Chevron nor environmental activists are satisfied. Both are appealing that ruling to the council.
The appeals began Tuesday night before a packed house of more than 400 people. The project would bring much-needed jobs and begin to reverse the city's violent crime rate, supporters said.
"Jobs give you prestige and self-esteem about yourself," said Richmond resident Antwone Cloird, a Chevron employee. "This is going to change lives."
Opponents said they want good-paying jobs for locals too, but the project poses a public health risk that must be thoroughly studied and mitigated first.
"We can have good union jobs and clean air," resident Susan Meeter said.
Debate about Chevron's proposal has centered on whether the upgrades are environmentally sound. Critics contend the upgrades would enable the processing of heavier, more contaminated crude that would increase pollutants and health problems.
It is a charge refinery representatives have denied. The refinery would process a wider range of crude with higher sulfur content, but the oil would remain in the same light to intermediate range it is now and overall emissions would not increase, they argued.
Councilman Tom Butt asked refinery representatives if they would be willing to accept more comprehensive restrictions on crude to ease public fears, a question that is similar to what a planning commissioner posed earlier this year. But Chevron again declined, saying such restrictions are precedent-setting and could tie its hands when it comes to adapting to a changing crude market.
Also on Tuesday, City Manager Bill Lindsay announced that Chevron submitted a proposed "community benefits agreement" that would pump $61.6 million into city services, such as more police officers, job training for residents and healthcare for the poor.
The agreement is no substitute for environmental safeguards, opponents said.
"Money cannot buy our health," said Richmond resident Torm Nompraseurt, a member of the Asian Pacific Environmental Network.
Emotions ran high both during the hearing and before it. Moments before the hearing started, opponents gathered outside and read the names of individuals who they say died of health issues attributed to environmental problems.
"Communities like North Richmond and Parchester on the front lines of the chemical assault have taken their fair share of environmental pollution," said Henry Clark, executive director of the West County Toxics Coalition. "We don't want anymore."
Chevron supporters clad in "Yes Renewal Project" T-shirts countered by chanting, "We need more jobs."
Reach Katherine Tam at 510-262-2787 or firstname.lastname@example.org.