Chevron Appeals Refinery Decision

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday July 23, 2009 - 09:46:00 AM

Chevron Monday filed an appeal challenging Contra Costa County Superior rulings that forced the company to shut down construction in Richmond. 

On June 5, Judge Barbara Zuniga struck down the environmental impact report (EIR) Chevron had prepared for expansion of its Richmond refinery, as well as the City Council decision approving the document. 

She also ruled that the City Council had erred in giving the company an additional year after the EIR had been certified to prepare an addendum listing the project’s impacts on global warming, a fact state law mandates must be included in all EIRs prior to approval. 

The judge found that the EIR had failed to make clear whether the expansion was, in part, designed to allow the refinery to process a heavier grade of crude oil. 

A second ruling, issued July 1, ordered Chevron to halt construction on the project until a new EIR has been certified. 

Construction has since halted on the expansion. 

In a prepared statement, refinery manager Mike Coyle said, “We believe there is ample factual and expert evidence, as well as law, supporting” the EIR and the expansion.  

“We believe the city correctly approved the project and that its construction and operation should be allowed to proceed,” Coyle said. “We look forward to presenting our case to the Court of Appeal.” 

A coalition of environmental groups, including Earthjustice, Citizens for a Better Environment, the Asian Pacific Environmental Network and the West County Toxics Coalition, had sued to halt the project. 

Will Rostov, the Earthjustice staff attorney who litigated the case, was unavailable for comment by the Daily Planet’s deadline. 

Meanwhile, talks about a possible settlement are underway, and Citizens for a Better Environment released a statement Wednesday which said, in part, “We remain open to finding real solutions to safeguard the community's health, but Chevron must ensure real guarantees that its project will not increase public health impacts and environmental harm, agree to build a healthier community, reduces climate change and creates a greener Richmond.”