Audio report: Chevron and its future in Richmond
on March 12, 2010
When top executives from Chevron’s local refinery filed out of a March 2 City Council meeting, they had no answer for what many believe is the most pressing question: Will you stay or will you go?
The answer, according to members of a contingent that included General Manager Mike Coyle and spokesman Brent Tippen, is yet unknown. But it will be determined by others within the corporate hierarchy, and relies heavily on whether global demand stabilizes.
Chevron Corp.’s century-plus history in Richmond has been in a state of uncertainty since a county judge halted a planned expansion of its Richmond facility. Soon after, Chevron executives were quoted in various media with vague allusions to the possibility of “divorce” between the city and its largest employer.
At the same time, there has been little interaction between the city and corporate leaders. Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, a member of the Green Party, routinely levels withering public criticism on the corporation, as do Councilmembers Tom Butt and Jeff Ritterman.
At a Feb. 19 meeting held by a local activist group, Butt and McLaughlin delighted the crowd with criticism of Chevron and vows to plan for the possibility of its departure.
But Chevron executives, who were at the March 2 meeting, along with other major local employers, to accept an award for sustaining local jobs and revenues, are careful not to lean too far either way. A key decision hangs in the balance, as a state appellate court judge mulls over whether to grant the corporation’s appeal to overturn the earlier decision stopping the refinery expansion.
Meanwhile, Chevron continues to be a philanthropic force in the community, upping contributions amid the political and legal volatility. In 2009, the corporation pumped more than $3.4 million into community programs.
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