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Chevron offers a glimpse inside

on September 8, 2011

Chevron’s Richmond Refinery will open its gates to the public Saturday morning, during its second annual Community Tour Day. Over 500 people from Richmond and surrounding cities have signed up to tour the refinery, an event that Chevron officials hope will help demystify its operations.

“People have a lot of misinformation about the refinery, and are not sure about what happens behind the gates,” said Chevron spokesperson Melissa Ritchie. “We want them to know what’s happening here.”

Local residents had to sign up in advance (sign-up ended August 31). Those who missed the deadline will have to wait until next year. For the lucky 500, the hour-long tour will include the partially-constructed Richmond Renewal Project. There will also be a booth to answer visitors’ questions about the renewal project, an effort to upgrade aging equipment which was halted in 2009 after environmental groups sued the company (Chevron is now applying to restart the project, with Richmond City Council encouragement). Security on the tour will be fairly strict – community members had to submit their name and address in advance, and will have to present an ID at the gate. Tours will be conducted entirely from buses. No cameras (or camera phones) are allowed, and visitors must leave their bags behind. Tours will run from 9 a.m. until noon.

The tour is part of a larger effort to engage the city of Richmond and the local community, Ritchie said. Chevron has increased local donations and grants in recent years: In 2010, the company gave more than $3.7 million to organizations in Richmond and West Contra Costa County, according to Ritchie. The Community Tour Day was initiated last year. Over 350 people attended, and the refinery is now making it a yearly event.

“The feedback that we’ve received from the community is that they want us to be more open…this is one of the ways we’re trying to do that,” Ritchie said. She noted that the company now makes a point of sending out email alerts on major events and issues, and has launched Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Councilman Tom Butt said that the company has made a visible effort to become more involved in the community in recent years.

“They have a big project that they’re working through the pipeline right now,” Butt said.  “They always get more friendly when they’re working through a project…But I think they realized that getting along with the community is just good business.”

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