Richmond could vote to tax Chevron refinery this November

ByTim Johns KGO logo
Tuesday, June 18, 2024
Richmond could vote to tax Chevron refinery this Nov.
The Richmond City Council is set to vote on an oil refining tax against Chevron, a move that would put the measure on the ballot this November.

RICHMOND, Calif. (KGO) -- The ongoing struggle between the city of Richmond and Chevron could take another step forward this week.

The city's council is set to vote on an oil refining tax, a move that would put the measure on the ballot for local voters to consider in the fall.

The push is being spearheaded by several local environmental groups including the Asian Pacific Environmental Network.

Katherine Lee works with APEN. She says the Chevron facility has adversely impacted the health of Richmond residents for years.

"They're frequently flaring. They have oil spills. And while they're harming and putting toxins into our air, our people are having to pay for our own medical bills," Lee said.

MORE: Several violations issued to Chevron for Richmond refinery flaring, officials say

While Lee says the tax would just be a way to make Chevron pay for damage its done to the community, others like Kevin Slagle of the Western States Petroleum Association, say it could have unintended consequences.

"We're down to nine refiners in the state. There was a time we had 36. And so the more pressure we put on these refiners, the more apt we are to put them in a position where California might not be a great place for them to do business," Slagle said.

This isn't the first time Richmond has tried to pass a tax on oil refineries. Back in 2008, voters approved a similar measure, but that was ultimately struck down in court a year later.

This time around though, the city says things will be different.

"It has been looked at very carefully to make sure that if this initiative wins and it gets challenged in court, the city has a defendable argument to win," said Claudia Jimenez, Richmond's Vice Mayor.

Supporters say the new tax could generate anywhere between $60-90 million a year.

MORE: Public nuisance violation issued to Richmond Chevron Refinery during odor inspection, officials say

In addition to funding clean environmental initiatives and funding public services, they say it could also help the city fill its budget deficit.

Chevron is already the city's biggest employer and taxpayer, and Slagle says relying too much on a single entity could be a bad move if they ever decide to leave.

"It's bad precedent. It's bad fiscal policy. It's really not a responsible way to manage a city," Slagle said.

But given that Richmond residents suffer from things like asthma at greater rates than other Californians, Lee says she thinks the measure will ultimately pass.

"I really see this funding as having the potential of having us prepare for a moment like that. Where if the refineries do consider up and leaving, we can set money aside to have a rainy day fund," she said.

The city council will vote to advance the measure on Tuesday.

Now Streaming 24/7 Click Here