Chevron Richmond accepts environmentally superior modernization alternative; doubles community investments to $60 million

Environmental group's settlement with air district over Chevron modernization doesn't clear path for construction.
The graphic shows two main components of the Chevron Richmond Refinery Modernization Project.

Responding to calls for greater emissions reductions, Chevron Richmond announced Monday it would accept an environmentally superior alternative to its proposal to modernize the refinery.

The company is also doubling the community investment it promised in conjunction with the refinery modernization project, from $30 million to $60 million.

Chevron Richmond announced its support for so-called Alternative 11, which was initially proposed by Attorney General Kamala Harris, a day before the $1 billion project was scheduled to go before City Council. The project will be presented to council Tuesday but a vote won’t happen until July 29.

The decision to accept the attorney general’s alternative followed “a lot of engagement with the community,” said Nicole Barber, a project spokesperson.

Even though the alternative plan will reduce the refinery’s operational flexibility, Barber said “the community wanted to see more emissions reductions.”

The alternative sets a cap on greenhouse gas emissions.

“With project design features there will be a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions” under the new proposal, she said.

As a result the project no longer relies on cap-and-trade to mitigate greenhouse gas emission increases.

“Over the last three years, we have listened closely to our neighbors’ feedback on modernization, which has resulted in the gold standard for refinery projects and will result in an even better project,” said Kory Judd, the refinery’s general manager. “I am proud of this project and the benefits that it will bring to this community, including a decrease in health risks and emissions as well as community investments in areas of concern for Richmond.”

The modernization project has been delayed for nearly a decade. In 2009, a judge halted a larger version of the project on the grounds that the environmental impact report (EIR) was incomplete. The latest EIR – a massive 1,100-page report – received praise from all sides of the issue, with experts saying it sets a new precedent for transparency. The EIR spelled out how the project would reduce overall emissions in a way that goes above what is required by law.

But Harris and community members called on Chevron Richmond to reduce emissions even more by proposing Alternative 11 (see image below), which would limit the amount of sulfur the refinery can process following the upgrade.

planningcommish1.7-10In addition to accepting the alternative, Chevron Richmond has proposed a $60 million Environmental and Community Investment Agreement that will fund greenhouse gas emissions reductions in Richmond and North Richmond. The investment will also create green jobs, send Richmond students to college, train residents for careers and provide grants for local nonprofits.

“I appreciate that Chevron took the time to listen to this community to determine the most important areas that need funding in Richmond, including education,” said Madeline Kronenberg, board member of the West Contra Costa Unified School District.

Dr. Henry Clark, an environmental activist from the West County Toxics Coalition, called the modernization project “environmental justice done right.”

“I am pleased that Chevron has accepted Alternative 11 and listened to what I and this community have been asking them to do for many years –a project that reduces emissions in North Richmond, a part of our community that is overlooked,” Clark said.

The modernization project would replace a 1960s hydrogen plant with a modern version that is 20 percent more energy efficient and inherently safer. It would also create about 1,000 construction jobs and 1,300 indirect jobs.


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