Oct 17, 2014

An environmental group announced Thursday it has settled its lawsuit with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District over permits for the Chevron Richmond Refinery Modernization Project, but that doesn’t clear the way for construction on the project to begin.

The same environmental group, Oakland-based Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), is also challenging an attempt by the city of Richmond and Chevron to lift a court stay on construction, which could take years to resolve, Chevron officials said.

This week’s settlement involved CBE’s lawsuit claiming the air district should not have renewed a permit for the $1 billion Modernization Project before an environmental review was certified by the Richmond City Council.

The air district denies that any permit was renewed and said it was waiting for the latest EIR to receive City Council approval. The EIR received unanimous approval by council in July.

District spokesman Ralph Borrmann told Bay City News its settlement with CBE “commits us to do what we would be doing anyway.”

The environmental group announced the settlement after Richmond council members on Oct. 8 called on it and similar groups to reconsider their lawsuits that are holding up the project.

Not only are Chevron and thousands of workers hoping construction can start, so is City Council. Only when Chevron clears legal hurdles preventing construction from beginning will funds for the $90 million community benefits agreement with Chevron be released. The council has expressed a desire to use a portion of that money to keep Doctors Medical Center open as a full-service hospital, but the financially struggling hospital is set to close early next year.

It could take months to years for those funds to be released due to the pending litigation by CBE.

A Superior Court hearing is set for Jan. 25 to hear the environmental group’s challenge of requests to allow construction to proceed.

Councilmember Tom Butt said in his e-forum Friday that it could take a minimum of six to eight months for a final decision.

“It is unclear when the Court will decide the matter, although judges are expected to rule within 90 days,” Butt said. “Either party then has 60 days to appeal an adverse decision. It is, therefore, possible that the trial court proceeding will not become final for 6-8 months from now, but it is difficult to predict.”

In 2009, a previous version of the refinery project was halted after a judge rejected the city’s EIR on the grounds that it failed to disclose whether the plan would allow for the processing of heavier crude, which has the potential to increase emissions.

Chevron Richmond returned with a scaled-down project that would reduce the refinery’s emissions and make it safer. The project’s EIR has the support of multiple state agencies and officials, including Attorney General Kamala Harris and frequent Chevron critic U.S. Rep. George Miller.

In his e-forum, Butt pointed out there has been “no challenge to the current EIR.”

“So the EIR certified in July is conclusively presumed to be a valid CEQA document for the Modernization Project,” the councilmember said.


  1. Chevron needs to cut their losses and sell the refinery. Find a new location to do business because Richmond is just trying to extort money from Chevron. That way Richmond would find out how Chevron has benefitted their city. When Richmond is unable to pay for services like fire and police because of Chevron’s presence, as well as supporting other city agencies, only then will they realize just how much their bread is buttered. Richmond will become another Vallejo.

    Alvin Todd | Oct 18th, 2014
  2. Somebody needs to do a case study , how California fell so far , to be deed last in terms of being business friendly , ranking dead last number 50th out of 50 states.
    go to :
    5/16/2014 @ 8:45AM
    California Ranks Last With CEOs, Toyota Goes, Now Worst In Taxes: Why California’s Dreamin’
    Look at the local example in Richmond , how a non business friendly state and city attacks one of it’s largest tax payer.

    Anywhere in the world , when you tell people that a refinery wants to modernize a 1930’s facility to a modern 2014 state of the art standards , they can’t understand why it can’t happen immediately . Then try and explain why it requires millions in studies and years of fighting for the right to improve production in a refinery to build a modern facility .
    Then when you tell them the city itself sued the company , for a fire at the facility they were not allowed to modernize based on economic impacts .
    Then without question most ask , how was California ever successful ? The answer in part is the greatest generation of workers came to California to win WW II in the Kaiser shipyards to win the war. The aptitude was ” we can do it ” What happened to the can do state ?
    Who hijacked the golden state ?

    Richard Poe | Oct 19th, 2014
  3. I cannot forget what took place when the Safeway distribution facility burned down. People all over Richmond lined up to get what was owed to them. Safeway, a major employer and a major source of supporting local businesses, moved to Tracy to avoid major cost of doing business here.
    Chevron should follow the same example and move.
    On the same note, as far as avoiding the high cost of doing business here in California, just drive up to Reno, Nevada, and count how many major businesses have built distribution facilities there to enjoy cheaper costs of doing business.

    Alvin Todd | Oct 19th, 2014

About the Author

Mike Aldax is the editor of the Richmond Standard. He has 13 years of journalism experience, most recently as a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner. He previously held roles as reporter and editor at Bay City News, Napa Valley Register, Garden Island Newspaper in Kaua’i, and the Queens Courier in New York City.