Groups unhappy with Chevron expansion

May 20, 2009 7:21:09 PM PDT
Chevron had hoped to be close to finishing upgrades at its refinery in Richmond. But that's not what's happening. There is considerable mistrust between the community and the corporation over this project.

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There may be a refinery upgrade in Richmond, but if environmental groups have it their way, it may never happen. This is frustrating Chevron.

"Well the whole intent of the project is to help modernize the refinery," said Chevron spokesman Dean O'Hair.

But the intent of lawyers was to delay it. There was wrangling in Superior Court after a ruling rejected an environmental impact report from Chevron and the city of Richmond. The court called it "unclear and inconsistent."

"The fact is that they are going to be bringing in heavier crude that has more contaminants and processing it. And those contaminants have to go somewhere. The city, the EIR, none of that described where these contaminants are going to go, and the public absolutely has a right to know," said Adrienne Bloch from Communities for a Better Environment.

Parchester Village would be one of the places.

In terms of public relations, some nearby neighborhoods are ground zero, and they seem to have their minds made up.

"It's OK to make a living, but then you don't kill somebody in the process. That's my thought," said resident Alma Williamson.

The refinery has a long history of complaints, both small and large, like a fire in 2007. Neighbors also claim higher rates of cancer and asthma.

Chevron says its upgrade will make the refinery cleaner, more efficient and the city concurs. But critics say Chevron bought their support by promising $61 million in community benefits.

"They're both working together, and both are no good," said resident Melba Thomas.

Chevron has four more years to build the project, so expect more days like this one.

"I would not begin to speculate about what the motivation of these folks is," said O'Hair.

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