Planning Commission certifies EIR, approves permits for Chevron Richmond Refinery Modernization Project

The Planning Commission unanimously certified the EIR for the Chevron Richmond Refinery Modernization Project on Thursday.

The Richmond Planning Commission unanimously certified the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Chevron Richmond Refinery Modernization Project on Thursday, sending the project on to City Council for final approval.

The certification calls for Chevron to follow an alternative plan to mitigate greenhouse emissions that had been recommended by Attorney General Kamala Harris’s office. The planning commission also approved the conditional use and design review permits for the $1 billion project, but not without adding a long list of conditions and requirements endorsed by opponents of modernization. The commission’s conditions went against the recommendations of the city’s own team of experts, who had been hired to put together the 1,100-page EIR.

One of the conditions would force Chevron to provide funds for health services in the city, a payment commissioners hoped would be earmarked toward saving Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo, which is grappling with an annual $18 million deficit.

Thursday marked the second consecutive night of the planning commission hearing, held at Kennedy High School, and it was once again packed with supporters of the modernization project.

“We are pleased that the Richmond Planning Commission made a decision tonight; however, we have grave concerns over conditions placed on the approval,” Chevron Richmond spokesperson Melissa Ritchie said in a statement afterward. “We will review the final resolution over the next few days. Based on what we heard tonight, we believe this is an issue that the Richmond City Council will need to review and make a final decision on, which is expected at the end of the month. We look forward to working with the City Council and its staff on this important project that will make the refinery newer, safer and cleaner and bring important benefits to the community.”

The project next heads before City Council July 22.

The modernization project, which would replace an existing hydrogen plant with a modern version that is 20 percent more energy efficient, as well as enhance the refinery’s sulfur recovery units, will create about 1,000 construction jobs and 1,300 indirect jobs. The project would reduce overall emissions, and Chevron has pledged to invest $30 million over 10 years to lower greenhouse gas emissions in the community and create local green jobs.

The commission said Harris’s alternative proposal to mitigate environmental impacts would further reduce emissions. The alternative is spelled out in the document posted below.