Chevron agreement with Air District called win for environment and energy 

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Chevron agreement with Air District called win for environment and energy 
Chevron Richmond Refinery

Chevron will pursue significant investments at its Richmond Refinery and fund projects within the Richmond community that will drive down emissions and improve air quality.  

It’s part of an agreement between Chevron and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (Air District) that officials say solidifies the future of energy production at the Richmond Refinery, which produces 60 percent of the jet fuel for Bay Area airports and 20 percent of the region’s gasoline. 

The agreement states Chevron will implement emission reduction measures and launch a permitting process to install a wet gas scrubber. A wet gas scrubber is an air pollution control device that uses water to remove contaminants, including particulate matter. Chevron says it will begin the permitting process for the wet gas scrubber by August of this year. 

Overall, the measures will result in an estimated 70 percent reduction of particulate matter emissions from Chevron’s fluidized catalytic cracking units (FCCU), according to the Air District. 

The agreement also includes $20 million in funding for air quality improvement projects in the Richmond area, enhancements to safety flare monitoring and sampling systems and increased public education and transparency on flaring systems which has been an ask of the local community.  

“We look forward to working with regional and local agencies on a timely process to permit these investments which are beneficial to the Richmond community,” Chevron Richmond Director Tolly Graves said. 

Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia, who represents Richmond and is also a member of the Air District Board of Directors, lauded the development as a victory for public health. 

“I believe everyone, no matter where they live, has the right to breathe clean air,” Gioia said. 

The agreement additionally resolves a five-year backlog of outstanding enforcement actions by the Air District for $20 million. Chevron notes that many of the actions were not for emissions exceedances and that several are a result of the Air District’s difficult permitting process. 

Richmond City Councilmember Cesar Zepeda lauded the Air District for holding Chevron accountable.

“They need to look at other companies that are polluting as well, to continue to lower and eliminate pollution all around Richmond,” he said. “In partnership between BAAQMD and the City of Richmond, we need to ensure the emission reductions efforts occur as soon as possible.”

Chevron officials have expressed a hope that the projects required under the agreement with the Air District will be expedited for the benefit of the community. 

The last major project proposed by Chevron, the Refinery Modernization Project, was approved after a contentious decade-long process which included two separate City Council environmental reviews and a lawsuit that went all the way to the California Supreme Court.  

According to data shared by Chevron, the Modernization Project has achieved significant environmental benefits including a nearly 40 percent reduction in particulate matter emissions refinery-wide, since 2018.  

While California officials continue their efforts to push policies that facilitate the energy transition, demand for transportation fuels in the state, particularly for jet fuel and gasoline, remains among the highest in the nation.  

This puts manufacturers, like Chevron, in a challenging spot. While consumers continue to need these products in their daily lives, policymakers have created an environment that increases the cost of producing energy and makes it very difficult for Chevron and others to receive permits for projects, even when these projects have a positive environmental benefit. According to Graves, this “is one factor in why California’s fuel prices are higher than the rest of the country.” 

Chevron has operated the Richmond Refinery for more than 120 years and employs a workforce of over 3,000 people. Since 2015, Chevron’s operations have contributed more than $2 billion to the local economy.  

“I am optimistic about the future of our facility,” Graves said. “I believe that by working together, we can reliably meet our energy needs today while continuing on the road to an ever-cleaner energy future.” 

The agreement between the Air District and Chevron resolves litigation over the Air District’s adoption of amendments to Regulation 6, Rule 5 (Rule 6-5), which regulates emissions from FCCU. 

Rule 6-5, adopted by the Air District in 2021, imposed some of the most stringent environmental regulations in the nation. In February 2021, the Richmond City Council unanimously adopted a resolution supporting the emission reductions included in Rule 6-5. 

The Air District and PBF Energy, who operates a refinery in Martinez, announced they had reached a separate agreement related to Rule 6-5.