Chevron Corp. and the city of Richmond have a relationship that has been fraught with ups and downs over the years.
Last year was decidedly a down one in many respects.
But one aspect was decidedly up: Corporate charitable donations to the community.
Chevron recently announced that it pumped $3.43 million into a host of local programs and institutions in Richmond and surrounding Contra Costa County communities in 2009, a figure that is significantly up from the between $2 million and $3 million it had given in recent years.
“We’ve listened to our local communities and the city on ways we can better contribute to improving the quality of life for all Richmond residents,” Mike Coyle, the refinery’s general manager, said in a prepared company release.
Some of the biggest beneficiaries of Chevron’s charity included Catholic Charities of the East Bay, which received the largest single contribution of $367,054.
Also receiving hefty donations were Richmond YouthWORKS, a youth employment program, and Teach For America. Each took in $100,000 from the oil corporation.
Critics have countered that Chevron’s stepped-up philanthropic and outreach efforts – the corporation has sent emissaries to neighborhood meetings and invited residents to take guided tours of its 2,900-acre refinery – are more about building political support for future policies than helping the community.
Chevron remains locked in state appellate court in a dispute over the proposed reconstruction of its power plant and other facilities, upgrades that would allow for the refinery to process more, heavier grades of crude oil.
A consortium of environmental groups that brought the lawsuit contend that the upgrades will allow for processes that increase pollution and harm public health.
The court decision is expected at the end of May.
About $1 million of this year’s contributions to local nonprofits were the product of an agreement struck between city leaders and Chevron in 2008, when the Environmental Impact Report for the retrofitting of the refinery was first approved by the City Council, said Councilman Nat Bates.
Bates, who supports the project, said the city stands to lose about $60 million in “mitigation fees” from Chevron if the retrofitting plan is rejected by the courts.
“In today’s economic times, most of these companies have cut back in their contributions,” Bates said. “Chevron’s continued effort is appreciated and very much in need because a lot of these nonprofits can’t exist without this kind of support.”