After five hours of waiting, an anxious and frustrated group of business leaders and community members were told they would not have the chance to speak before the city council Tuesday. At 11:30 p.m., the council voted to call it a night just as an environmental consultant began laying out the possibilities for local greenhouse gas mitigation measures-including energy efficiency, urban greening and transportation projects. These measures are being considered as a part of the Chevron refinery’s Revised Modernization Project, which the city is currently reviewing.
The project would involve construction of a new hydrogen power plant at the refinery, and the addition of sulfur removal equipment that would allow the refinery to process crude oils with higher sulfur content. After a court ruled in 2010 that the original project would not appropriately mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, Chevron submitted a revised project to the city in 2011.
Councilmember Nat Bates criticized city staff for failing to prioritize the agenda items relating to Lawrence Berkeley National Labs’ Richmond Bay Campus and the Chevron refinery, saying it was unfair to make the city’s major job creators wait for hours to speak. LBNL officials did not begin their presentation to the council until after 9 p.m.
Fred Glueck, President of the Council of Industries, was not surprised at having to sit for five hours in the council chambers only to be told he would not have a chance to talk before the council. But Glueck agreed with Bates. “I think the items that were more business-relevant should have been [scheduled] earlier,” Glueck said.
Communities for a Better Environment leaders Andres Soto and Greg Karras told the council members they had decided not to comment on the item. Instead, they submitted a letter to the council urging them to scrap the issue altogether. Soto said that the council should wait until the full Environmental Impact Report of the Revised Modernization Project is released before making decisions about how to mitigate greenhouse gases that will be produced by the project.
The city staff was prepared to gather input from the public on what they would like to see in terms of greenhouse gas mitigation, but discussion on the item was postponed.
“We’ll continue to hear and discuss more fully what types of mitigations we want to put in place,” said Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, after adjourning the meeting. “I’d like to see a lot more on local emissions reductions and a lot more [reductions] at the refinery itself instead of the ‘cap and trade.’”
Correction: In an earlier version of this story, we reported that the Revised Modernization Project would allow the refinery to process “heavier crude oil.” In fact, according to Chevron’s conditional use permit, the Revised Renewal Project will only enable the refinery to process crude oils with higher sulfur content, known in the industry as “sourer” crude oils. The project will not enable processing of heavier crude oils.