Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Chevron Richmond proposal moves on to City Council

Katherine Tam - Oakland Tribune, July 2, 2008.

Chevron's bid to upgrade equipment at its Richmond refinery is scheduled to reach the City Council for a ruling July 15.

No one is satisfied with the city's June 19 decision to grant a permit for the project along with about 70 provisions. Chevron filed a formal appeal the next day, stating that some requirements are not related to the company's plan to replace its hydrogen plant, power plant and reformer to refine a wider range of crude.

Environmental activists followed up this week with their own appeal. The approval lacks sufficient safeguards to prevent Chevron from processing heavier crude that could increase pollution and hurt public health, the opponents said. They have lobbied for tougher restrictions.

"The city should reject Chevron's project application and require equipment design to enable the project it described, or impose conditions that ensure that Chevron does not use the project beyond what has been disclosed, analyzed and mitigated," according to the appeal filed by Communities for a Better Environment, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, the West County Toxics Coalition, Richmond Greens, Richmond Progressive Alliance and the Atchison Village Environmental Committee.

That the issue would eventually reach the City Council is no surprise and was a direction many predicted. Some anticipate lawsuits will follow, no matter what the council decides.

Appeals also were filed on a related issue. Both Chevron and opponents are appealing the Planning Commission's June 5 decision to certify the project's environmental impact report, though for different reasons. The report is key because officials could not have granted a permit without approving the document.

The City Council plans to begin the July 15 appeal with a presentation from city planners, followed by arguments by appellants. The public hearing will open, and residents will be allowed to testify. The public comment portion of the meeting will then be closed, and the council expects to continue the hearing to another date, possibly July 16.

A council minority disagreed with that schedule because they fear a repeat of what happened at the Planning Commission's first hearing on Chevron when residents waited three to four hours after presentations and opening arguments to testify.

The meeting room was so crowded that more than 100 listened to the proceedings from a tent outside. Many had gone home by the time it was their turn to speak, in part because of the late hour and because it was cold outside.

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