The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Roger Kim/APEN: 510-599-9393
Greg Karras/CBE: 415-902-2666
Henry Clark/WCTC: 510-232-3427
Will Rostov/Earthjustice: 510-550-6725

Environmental Justice Groups Sue City of Richmond, CA Over Approval of Chevron Refinery Expansion

Expansion Endangers Public Health and Environment


Environmental justice groups filed a lawsuit today challenging the
Richmond (CA) City Council's approval of Chevron's refinery expansion

At issue is an environmental review that concealed that the project
would result in much higher levels of air pollution and increased risks
of catastrophic accidents and oil spills. Communities in Richmond,
particularly low-income and communities of color, are severely
overburdened with industrial pollution-related health problems,
including high rates of asthma and cancer. Chevron's refinery is the
largest industrial polluter in the region.

The expansion would allow heavier and dirtier crude oil to be processed
at the Richmond refinery, which would increase releases of mercury,
selenium, toxic sulfur compounds, and greenhouse gases. The Richmond
City Council approved the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and
Conditional Use Permit for Chevron's expansion plans failing to
acknowledge the fact that the expansion would allow Chevron to refine
dirtier and more polluting oil were not disclosed, analyzed, or
mitigated by the EIR.

"Chevron's project would lock in a fundamental switch to dirtier oil
refining that increases toxic and climate-poisoning pollution
drastically when avoiding these impacts is feasible," said Greg Karras,
a senior scientist with Communities for a Better Environment (CBE).
"The City violated the community's right to know about and act on this
information," he said.

"The City Council failed its legal and moral obligation to protect our
health," said Richmond resident Torm Nompraseurt, of the Asian Pacific
Environmental Network. "Those dangerous chemicals are going to endanger
me, my family, and my neighbors but the City didn't even look at what
Chevron is really going to be doing."

Hundreds of residents jammed the City Council hearings in July
demanding the City Council limit the refinery from processing dirtier
crude oils and re-do the Environmental Impact Report that failed to
analyze the project Chevron actually plans to build.

Instead, Chevron made a multi-million dollar offer in exchange for
project approval with weakened environmental protections and less
public review of future refinery projects. Chevron valued its offer at
about $61 million. City and Chevron officials negotiated a proposed
contract to execute the deal without public input, and presented it at
the City Council's hearing on the project without the public notice
required by state open government laws. The Council accepted the deal
and approved the project without completing the environmental review
needed to identify, analyze, and lessen or avoid its significant
environmental impacts.

"Chevron must stop its toxic assault on poor people of color in
Richmond. The City Council is selling out our community, but our health
is not for sale," said Henry Clark, executive director of the West
County Toxics Coalition. "We will fight this until we achieve
environmental justice."

"The California Environmental Quality Act requires government agencies
to look before they leap by analyzing and mitigating all significant
environmental impacts" said Will Rostov, an attorney for Earthjustice,
who represents the environmental justice groups in court. "The City's
environmental review fails in its most basic purpose."

A poll conducted by David Binder Research indicated that an
overwhelming majority (73 percent) of Richmond voters opposed the
approval of the Chevron expansion until the environmental and health
impacts of refining heavier crude oil were fully reviewed in a revised
Environmental Impact Statement. In addition, 75 percent of Richmond
voters said it was very or extremely important that any projects or
funding between Chevron and the City Council be determined in an open
public process.

The lawsuit was filed today in Contra Costa County Superior Court on
behalf of the Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN), Communities
for a Better Environment (CBE), and the West County Toxics Coalition by
attorneys from Earthjustice and CBE.

Read the poll results on the Chevron refinery expansion by David Binder Research (PDF):

Link to Petition: