Chevron refinery expansion permitted before environmental review, lawsuit charges

Chevron's Richmond refinery

Communities for a Better Environment, known for its watchdog efforts around Chevron's Richmond oil refinery, has filed a lawsuit against the Bay Area Air Quality Management District for authorizing a permit to Chevron for a refinery construction project that’s still undergoing environmental review.

The project, known as a “modernization” in Chevron lingo, would essentially make it easier for the oil giant to process lower-quality crude, an industrial practice that CBE contends could significantly increase greenhouse-gas emissions.

CBE’s lawsuit charges that the Air District granted an “authority to construct” permit, which also authorizes operation, despite the fact that a state-mandated environmental review process is far from complete, with a draft review being released just this past March. “The authority to construct should be issued after the [environmental impact review],” CBE attorney explained Roger Lin explained in an interview.

The permit was originally granted in 2008, Lin explained, but it was based on an earlier environmental review that was later thrown out in court, because it failed to properly calculate the resulting air quality impacts. Since then, stricter greenhouse-gas regulations were passed, and Chevron was discovered to be emitting more harmful particulate matter into the air than it claimed to be. Meanwhile, a new environmental review process got underway.

Nevertheless, the "authority to construct" permit was renewed in 2012. “This permit was approved the same month that the Chevron Refinery blew up,” igniting a fire that could be seen for miles, noted CBE spokesperson Steven Low.

What’s more is that the draft environmental review proposes to mitigate new greenhouse gas emissions that would be released by the refining process “through cap-and-trade,” noted Lin. “For us, it’s not true mitigation.”

When the Bay Guardian phoned the Air District for comment, Public Information Officer Ralph Borrman told us there wasn’t much he could say on the matter. “Since it’s a lawsuit,” he said, “We’re just not able to comment on current or existing information.”



almost everywhere else in the nation. If we don't get this refinery, gas prices will go up even more.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 06, 2014 @ 1:50 pm

Gasoline is a fungible resource that is traded globally, the commodity price of which is independent of local surcharges and taxes.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 06, 2014 @ 2:10 pm

regulations make a big difference. That is why gas is expensive in CA but even more so in the Bay Area.

Having this refinery will make gas cheaper than it otherwise would have been

Posted by Guest on Jun. 06, 2014 @ 2:38 pm

California gas in summertime most certainly is not fungible. And I'm sure you'd agree that local gas is better than that South American or middle eastern stuff.

Of all the horrible comments you've made, I think this is your least informed yet, Marcos.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 08, 2014 @ 1:38 pm

He's one of the bike nuts.

And yes, of course, one of the reasons why we have such expensive gas here is local regulations.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 08, 2014 @ 3:41 pm

Actually, guest, I think you're misinformed on this. The bay area's refineries have plenty of capacity to meet our demand, because gas consumption is decreasing as gas mileage has been improving.

Chevron's wants to expand so they can refine tar sands oil (some of the dirtiest oil in the world) and export it to Asia.

Posted by Guest2 on Jun. 08, 2014 @ 5:29 pm
Posted by Guest on Jun. 08, 2014 @ 6:27 pm

What it will come down to is this: What is more important to you, low(er) gas prices or clean(er) air?
We cannot have both, or haven't you noticed?
Npw back to your iDistraction.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 07, 2014 @ 5:39 pm

And this refinery will be down-wind of most Bay Areans.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 08, 2014 @ 5:03 am

Why don't these guys just step out and say they're nothing more than obstructionist NIMBYs?? GHGs have no relevance on the local area, so cap and trade is absolutely a mitigation that's relevant.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 08, 2014 @ 1:40 pm

During the lawsuit around the bike plan the Bay Guardian insisted that the environmental review was a waste of time and that no matter what came up from the review the bike plan should go forward no matter what.

The opportunism here is entertaining, but essentially wrapped up in getting over any way they can.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 08, 2014 @ 5:54 pm

It is riddled with bias.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 08, 2014 @ 6:28 pm

Yeah, and they're hailing the CEQA challenges to the corporate shuttles as some sort of victory. They should at least be a little consistent and perhaps back some effort that doesn't fit into their "success is bad, low incomes are good" narrative. Would make them look a little credible.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 08, 2014 @ 6:38 pm

Trying to get over anyway you can as long as it fits into the agenda is OK, while getting self righteous and outraged when others play the same game is a bit much.

The agenda may be different but the methodology is the same as any other group of true believers, "I know whats best for you and whatever further my agenda is good, the ends justify the means"

Posted by Guest on Jun. 08, 2014 @ 7:39 pm

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