I know there have been a lot of questions raised by the Chevron Hydrogen Replacement & Renewal Project. There have been several articles written about it and a whole lot of public statements made on both sides, by some council members and members of the public, which has helped to create more than a bit of confusion on just what was before the Richmond City Council.
I would like, therefore, to clear up some of this confusion. First, you need to know that Chevron was seeking a permit from the City of Richmond to upgrade one single unit within the refinery and as such that is all that was before the City Council. The law states that the city must approve a project if it meets all of the requirements, regional, state and federal. The law is also very clear that we can not exact any monetary consideration, other than the normal fees that accompany a project, in exchange for a permit, any permit.
I believe I also need to clear up another issue regarding Chevron, who has what authority to regulate Chevron’s activities? Because of what Chevron does, refines oil, and because of it’s long history of being domiciled in West Contra Costa County (since the early 1900’s), Chevron is Governed by many agencies (The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA), the Regional and State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), The Bay Area Air Quality Management Quality District (BAAQMD), Bay Area Conservation Development Control District (BCDC), the County & State Health Services agencies, plus several other lesser agencies. All that the City of Richmond had control over is the permit process and any nexus it has to other facilities within the refinery.
Sorry for the long paragraph above, but it is important to know the reality under which we as a council operate. No matter what we might have wanted to do or how much money we would have liked to have received from Chevron for this project, we were severely limited.
And yet we achieved a substantial agreement between Chevron and the City of Richmond.
“The Globe has the following observations to put before our readership:
· The Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD), the regional regulatory body for air emissions, testified at city hearings that the Chevron project improves air quality because air pollutants and particulate matter are reduced.
· Emotions have run high at Richmond City Council meetings, with throngs of attendees weighing in on the issue. Noise levels have overwhelmed and inhibited the mayor’s ability to keep order. Most notably, Councilman Tom Butt continues a barrage of emails discrediting his five colleagues whose votes overruled his efforts to vote down the approval of the permit.
· Despite 10 conditions in the permit that are more stringent than current California state regulatory law, and two conditions that regulate environmental performance of equipment and reduces nitrogen oxides by -104.8 tons per year, opponents insist that these controls do not have enough safeguards to ensure the safety of the environment and air quality.””
The Council, with advice from the City Manager, City Attorney(s) and special consultants, hired by the city for this purpose voted to approve the permit and for the Community Benefit package; did we get enough from Chevron? I don’t know the answer to that question. All I know is that I can’t think of any other city or county around us that received anywhere near the amount from any other entity, $61 million is quite a bit of money.
The Richmond Globe concluded with this:
While the controversy continues, and opponents and proponents state their cases, it’s clear that no matter where they stand, the community benefits agreement component of the permit stands to bring $61.6 million to the city, including 1,200 jobs. In an imperfect world, it appears that the council is moving forward cautiously and keeping community interests in the forefront as evidenced in its conditional use permit.
It is easy for those who had other agendas, or who weren’t privy to all of the meetings that the City Staff and the great majority of the Council members sat through, to question the vote of the majority who voted for the permit and the Community Benefits package. It was, to quote Councilman Jim Rodgers, “A difference of opinion,” and we are all certainly entitled to that.