4500 Page Chevron Report Released
Paid Supporters Welcome EIR at Council
By Mike Parker
The crowd at Tuesday's Council meeting was remarkable.
Most of the crowd was apparently paid to attend. Several in attendance reported that Building Trades members -most of whom do not live in Richmond-- were paid. A group of Richmond residents who were wearing the pro-Chevron shirts said they worked for Chevron. When asked where they work within the refinery, they explained that they were hired by Chevron to do door-to-door work.
The action was clearly jointly organized by the Building Trades and Chevron's PR firm Whitehurst-Mosher, whose Richmond operatives were also wearing the Chevron shirts.
The main spokespersons for the building trades were very careful to say the right and reasonable things: It is the job of the city to examine the Environmental Impact Report carefully.
But the main message of the paid supporters was that the 4500-page report, just released, "was perfect," as one said. There were thunderous denunciations of the city council for supposedly having stopped the project two years earlier and threats to make sure it would not happen again.
Is it their Skills, Values, or Money
Mayor asks for Costs to City of Chevron Fire
Richmond has suffered a lot of losses from the Chevron Refinery fire last August. The City Government of Richmond has suffered direct losses including costs of emergency services provided, disruption of city services, dedicated staff time to numerous meetings with community and regulatory and investigative agencies, and the loss of property tax income to the city to name a few.
In addition the city as a whole has suffered great damages and costs. Examples include the health impact on residents and loss of property values of businesses and residences. (People's homes are their savings.) The City needs to increase services to restore the property values throughout Richmond. In addition, the fire has discouraged businesses from coming to Richmond.
The fire also made clear that we need to be better prepared for such incidents with emergency preparedness and warning systems which require considerable costs. It is important to put additional warning systems in place (phone systems, transportation alternatives, and other systematic preparation) and expand our emergency preparedness. Getting such systems and preparations in place has a cost attached to it as well.
It is essential that the total costs of the fire be gathered and submitted to public scrutiny. I have put a resolution on Tuesday's agenda (see below) that calls for an expert study and public discussion. It directs staff to coordinate with experts in the field (urban economists, academicians, etc.) to come up with the figures and present them to the public.
Such an analysis is necessary before any settlement or agreement through any proposed legal strategy with Chevron is made.
--Gayle McLaughlinFor Resolution and more click here
|Richmond Progressive Alliance Statement on Chevron Explosions and Fire
Community Compensation is What We Need
People must get compensated for individual medical conditions and damages caused by the Chevron fire. People have a right to get this compensation easily, without red tape, and without having to sign away their rights for future compensation if new problems develop later.
Compensation is also a community issue. It should be solved at the community level. It is the opportunity to establish a new relationship between the community and energy company that provides for safe operation, shared prosperity, and increasingly sustainable and less polluting energy.
It should not be solved by Chevron picking some non-profits it finds worthy (and friendly to it) but by the City Council with genuine community input that democratically represents the community surrounding Chevron
Chevron should pay its full property taxes and stop the appeals that hold the county and city hostage and cost funds for defending against the appeal. But taxes are just the starting point-the obligation of all citizens. Chevron should be funding substantially more.
It is clear from the recent accident that the community bears considerable costs by having Chevron as a neighbor. The costs come in both short term and long term health problems, pollution in our air, soil, and water and even the loss of property values and attractiveness to new jobs and industry in Richmond. Years of work improving the image of Richmond were wiped away by the fire.
A Chevron Community Benefits settlement should include the following:
RPA Steering Committee
|Richmond Progressive Alliance Statement
Chevron Explosions and Fire
We are glad that there were no direct serious injuries from the blast and the fire. The long term damage to people is yet to be determined and likely to be serious. We thank the emergency personnel for the job they did in containing what might have been an even more serious disaster.
Some questions require immediate answers:
Safety must come first. We do not have to accept that these things just happen, "like tornadoes and floods." There are serious questions about whether Chevron makes safety its highest priority. During the last contract negotiations Chevron opposed union proposals for more trained people devoted to safety tasks. In fact Chevron made plans to use workers inexperienced with the Richmond refinery to keep operating if negotiations broke down.
The warning system needs much improvement. The cost of improvements and maintenance must be borne by Chevron.
Our property tax system pays for county medical and emergency services. Chevron's efforts to get a massive refund on their property tax threatens these services and shows that Chevron does not recognize the costs its operation imposes on us. Chevron must drop these appeals immediately as a first step to becoming a good neighbor.
If BART and buses cannot run, then there must be alternative housing or transportation for people left stranded. Chevron must absorb costs for these preparations.
Heavier crude oil contains more known and unknown toxic pollutants which are released in accidents like this. The cracking of heavier crude requires more energy and higher temperatures increasing the probability of explosions. Chevron's plans to use dirtier, heavier crude was the issue in the last Chevron expansion plans and continues to be an issue in the current expansion plans. We want jobs with safety first at the Refinery.
It is up to the City Council to protect its residents. As long as we must refine fossil fuels, Richmond should take the lead in making sure that refining in Richmond leads in safety procedures. Should we have Councilmembers like Nat Bates who take campaign money and assistance from Chevron and its political front groups in charge of protecting us in this vital area? Candidates Eduardo Martinez and Marilyn Langlois take no contributions from Chevron or any other corporation. They are loyal only to Richmond.
While it is step forward for Chevron to call a community meeting, we think the timing shows a lack of understanding of the Richmond community. It's unfortunate that Chevron chose to hold its town hall meeting at 6pm, during our National Night Out event that neighborhood groups have been planning for months. It could have been scheduled for 4pm or 9pm (or both to accommodate more people) out of respect for the community members who are working together to reduce crime. National Night Out is important in Richmond.
We hope this is not another Chevron scripted PR event but that community questions are answered directly and fully.
We know some questions may take more time to get answers: We support Mayor McLaughlin's call for full independent investigation and transparency to determine both causes and what can be done to make this refinery as safe as possible. When we live with a potential bomb in our community, we cannot accept that information is protected by "proprietary interests" and "trade secrets." There also must be discussion about what Chevron can do to repay the community.
--RPA Steering Committee
Chevron takes some first steps
What It Takes to be a Good Neighbor
Since the fire, Chevron has taken some steps to repair its image in the community. They have upped their contributions to non-profits and West County Education, they have taken some serious steps toward making it possible for Richmond residents to get some of the good jobs at Chevron, they have started directing more of their contracting business to Richmond firms like DP Security and Catahoulla. You may have seen their recent mailer promoting their Richmond connections.
We welcome these steps, but they should not hide the fact that there is a lot more that Richmond must demand and Chevron needs to do (and not do) in order for the Corporation to be a genuinely good neighbor.
Mayor McLaughlin and others have put together a list that would protect our safety and health, promote our democracy and make Richmond a better place."
For Our Safety
For Our Health
For Our Democracy
Refinery Fire Findings & Discoveries Meeting Explains Need for Big Changes
On Friday April 5th, Senator Loni Hancock and Assembly Member Nancy Skinner presided over a three and a half hour public meeting at the Richmond Civic Center. Over 200 people heard updates on the status of all of the investigations into the causes of and responses to the August 6th fire. There were over two hours of reports from the US Chemical Safety Board, Cal OSHA, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, Contra Costa County Department of Environmental Health, the Governor’s Taskforce on Refinery Safety, Supervisor John Gioia, and City Manager Bill Lindsay which were then followed by Q&A and public comments.
The picture that was painted was more than just sobering. Multiple problems were clearly identified and discussed:
Upcoming Meetings & Developments
So What Can We Do?
Chevron Tries End-Run Around the Community
Chevron is trying to use Sacramento lobbying to bypass environmental protections for Richmond.
Negotiations are still going on between environmental groups, the city of Richmond and Chevron about protections for restarting the Chevron expansion project. But Chevron is now lobbying the state legislature to sneak through a special exemption which allows the giant oil company to do its project without having to file an Environmental Impact Report and reach agreement with the city about environmental protections.
In July 2009 a court ruled that Chevron's Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for its expansion project was flawed because it did not reveal its true plans for the expansion, Chevron stopped the project instead of submitting a revised EIR or negotiating with the environmental groups. Chevron then appealed and again the Courts ruled that its EIR was seriously flawed noting that Chevron told one thing to its stockholder but another to the community.
In the last few months a Democratic assemblyman has been serving as a mediator to find a way to restart the project. The city delegation for the mediation includes Mayor McLaughlin, Vice Mayor Ritterman, Council Member Viramontes, the City Manager and City Attorney (see Chevron Loses). In previous mediation attempts the environmental groups demonstrated a willingness to try other approaches to protect the community. Chevron has refused to seriously address concerns about community health.
A number of mainstream environmental organizations like the Planning and Conservation League have drafted letters to send to the leadership of the State legislature asking them to refuse an exemption to Chevron.
Write your legislator and ask that they too refuse to give a free pass to Chevron. Our air and water and our lives are too important to trade for Chevron campaign contributions. We don't want a further weakening of the California Environmental Quality Act. Demand that Chevron come to the negotiating table prepared to negotiate real protections of our air and water and to file a truthful and accurate Environmental Impact Report.
See the LA Times blog on this.
Appeals Court Rules against Chevron on Environmental Impact Report
On April 26 the Appeals Court rejected Chevron's main claims.
This leaves the injunction standing, the project stopped and 1200 workers not working. The environmental groups, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Communities for a Better Environment, and West County Toxics Coalition, have demonstrated a willingness to negotiate a way to restart the project and provide for the health of the community and environmental concerns, including taking some major steps at the request of Attorney General Brown's office. Thus far Chevron has refused to budge.
For more detail see:
Chevron’s Move to Dirtier Oil: