Chevron U.S.A. Inc.’s Richmond Refinery (Chevron Richmond) says it has agreed to “accept the environmentally superior alternative” to its Richmond Refinery Modernization Plan. The announcement comes in advance of this evening’s (July 22, 2014) Richmond City Council meeting where that body will hear public comments on the project and then make a final decision on the project at its July 29 meeting.
In previous meetings, the Richmond Council had approved the original environmental impact report (EIR), and plan, and took action to fast track permitting for the project. But opponents of the plan “as is” intensely lobbied the city’s Planning Commission which instead voted unanimously to accept one of the so-called “environmentally superior” plans outlined by the EIR and was championed by California Attorney General Kamala Harris. Chevron’s decision to accept the alternative plan comes after it announced that it had “grave concerns over conditions placed on the approval.”
Chevron has also proposed a $60 million Environmental and Community Investment Agreement as part of the Modernization Project proposal, that Chevron says “ensures the project will deliver even more benefits to Richmond.”
According to Chevron’s statement today
The City of Richmond’s expert permitting team put forward a comprehensive and robust set of recommendations for consideration by the City Council above and beyond what is required by law. Chevron Richmond is prepared to accept all of the conditions recommended by the City’s permitting team, including certifying the Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and approval of a Conditional Use Permit. Chevron Richmond has also proposed a $60 million Environmental and Community Investment Agreement that will fund programs in Richmond and North Richmond to reduce greenhouse gas emissions locally, create green jobs, send Richmond students to college, train residents for careers, provide grants for local nonprofit organizations and other programs identified by residents at recent public workshops.
“I appreciate that Chevron took the time to listen to this community to determine the most important areas that need funding in Richmond, including education,” said Madeline Kronenberg, Board Member of the West Contra Costa Unified School District. “I urge the City Council to approve this project as the City Staff proposed so that more local students can go to college. This will fundamentally change the lives of these young people in our community by giving them a college education.”
Additionally, Chevron Richmond has now agreed to accept the environmentally superior alternative, referred to as Alternative 11 in the final EIR, the adoption of which is supported by California Attorney General Kamala Harris. Alternative 11 limits the amount of sulfur that the refinery can process and ensures refinery greenhouse gas emissions will not increase. Alternative 11 also results in additional reductions in health risks and other emissions.
“This project is environmental justice done right. The Modernization Project is a much safer and better project than the original proposed Renewal project,” said Dr. Henry Clark of West County Toxics Coalition. “I am pleased that Chevron has accepted Alternative 11 and listened to what I and this community have been asking them to do for many years –a project that reduces emissions in North Richmond, a part of our community that is overlooked.”
The $1 billion investment to modernize the refinery will replace some of the facility’s oldest processing equipment with more modern technology that is inherently safer and meets some of the nation’s toughest air quality standards.
“Over the last three years, we have listened closely to our neighbors’ feedback on modernization, which has resulted in the gold standard for Refinery projects and will result in an even better project,” said Kory Judd, Refinery General Manager. “I am proud of this project and the benefits that it will bring to this community, including a decrease in health risks and emissions as well as community investments in areas of concern for Richmond.”
The main project components include replacing a 1960s hydrogen plant with more modern technology that is inherently safer, cleaner and 20 percent more energy efficient. The new plant will produce higher-quality hydrogen more efficiently and reliably. The project will give the refinery flexibility to process crude oil blends, including higher levels of sulfur, while meeting strict environmental regulations. In addition, the project will be constructed with flanges, valves, and other components that are consistent with Best Available Control Technology (BACT), the Bay Area Air Quality Management District’s standard for regulating air pollution under the Clean Air Act.