Chevron wants to expand in Richmond

March 20, 2008 7:14:55 PM PDT
The City of Richmond is expected to take another major step toward by approving Chevron's plan to expand its refinery. The plan comes at the same time Chevron is trying to reduce the amount of property taxes it owes Contra Cost County and the City of Richmond.

A rally in opposition to Chevron's proposed expansion was scheduled for Thursday night. The planning commission hearing meeting was generating enormous community interest. There was a tent set up outside city hall to accommodate the expected overflow crowd.

Chevron wants to update aging equipment at it's Richmond refinery.

The permitting process has been underway for three years and is not over yet. Many in the community are afraid the expansion will mean more air pollution.

Attorney General Jerry Brown criticized the plan, saying it does nothing to mitigate 900,000 metric tons of emissions, but Chevron says Brown's got it wrong.

"When the plant comes up, initially in operating and supplying hydrogen, in this case only to the refinery, there's actually a 219,000 metric tons per year reduction in greenhouse gases," said Dean O'Hair from Chevron.

Chevron says the project will provide 1,200 jobs, probably for local workers and more local tax and sales revenue from purchases for the project.

However, the proposed expansion comes at the same time Chevron is in the midst of a court battle to reduce the amount of property tax it owes.

Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia says the refinery was assessed at $2.6 billion, Chevron says it's only worth $1.1 billion dollars.

If it wins its appeal, the county would owe Chevron a refund of nearly $9 million dollars, the fire district would lose $4 million, the San Ramon Valley Fire District nearly $2 million, the City of Richmond $1.5 million, and the West Contra Costa County Health District would pay back $159,00 dollars.

"If on one hand they're saying if their project adds value, through their other hand they're really taking money away from us, so the net effect will be, receiving less tax dollars from Chevron," said Supervisor Gioia.

"We simply disagree with the way the assessments have been made like any other homeowner, or any other business, we've questioned those assessments using the appeal process that's available through the county and made available by the California State Constitution," said O'Hair.

Despite significant community opposition, the planning commission is expected to sign off on the environmental impact report on Thursday and possibly go as far as issuing the permit for the expansion proposal, but that could also take a little while longer and go beyond Thursday. The tax assessment appeal is expected to still be in process at least until June.