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Richmond City Council Approves Chevron Upgrade Plan 5 to 4 and Community Plan 6 to 1

Richmond City Council Approves Chevron Upgrade Plan 5 to 4

After a long and bruising Tuesday night-into-Wednesday morning Richmond City Council meeting, the City Council approved Chevron's Richmond Oil Refinery Upgrade Plan on an emotional 5-4 vote and approving the community development plan 6 to 1.

I attended the packed meeting which seemed to draw every media person in the Bay Area to Cutting Boulevard and the council gathering. It was indeed a people-circus, with folks representing those who wanted to save their Chevron jobs (which probably weren't going any where anyway) and others who were in opposition to the idea that Chevron was breathing, let alone upgrading an existing facility.

The main issue is the assumed production using crude oil: Chevron says they don't use it at the plant; opponents say they're lying. The project has been the source of much controvery, with California Attorney General Jerry Brown weighing in, saying that the Environmental Imact Report was inadequate.

The problem at the meeting was with words and what they mean. The project's enemies say they use crude oil, which produces the pollutants they're considered about. Chevron says it does not. But where Chevron seems to get tripped up is in the the matter of having a cap on the use of crude oil. They said they didn't want one; which riled the audience because it should not matter.

My impression is that the technology is too far beyond both the people of Richmond and the representative of Chevron at the meeting who made the factual error. Thus the policy confusion and emotion.

Both were not necessary, as there are some basic points of agreement and simple facts about the plant.

What I got from the meeting are these undisputable facts:

1) Chevron badly needs to upgrade its refinery, which has not been done for almost two generations.

2) Any upgrade would be a welcome benefit to refinery employees.

3) The upgrades planned have to be approved under 21st Century regulations and using 21st Century methods of evaluation.

4) Because of 3, the upgraded plant would almost certainly produce less -- not more -- pollution than what the current facility is making.

5) Chevron has a major economic impact on Richmond being its largest employer.

6) Chevron provides jet fuel to all of the Bay Area's airports.

So, the Chevron request passes my personal logic test. It's too bad that when it's Chevron people tend to think irrationally regardless of wheather it's Richmond, Nigeria, or Ecuador. Still, it's Chevron's responsibility to tell its story and while it's getting better at it, it's still got a long way to go win over some of the people in Richmond.

The overall view is this: with Chevron, it's hard to get a fair hearing because they are "big oil" and can do everything wrong. That's not right and prevents the formation of a good Chevron / Richmond Agreement that everyone likes and without a lawsuit.

Right now, the agreement is a good one, but certain hard-headed Richmonders don't want to see that. Hopefully they will at some point after study.

Stay tuned.
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