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Court rules against Chevron, city of Richmond in environmental review

Submitted by Staff on Tue, 06/09/2009 - 2:39pm
West County Times

By Katherine Tam
West County Times

A Contra Costa Superior Court judge has ruled that the environmental document covering Chevron's bid to replace equipment at its Richmond refinery to refine a wider range of crude is insufficient and vague.

"Project description is unclear and inconsistent as to whether project will or will not enable Chevron to process a heavier crude slate than it is currently processing," Judge Barbara Zuniga wrote.

Chevron already has begun construction on its project, which replaces the hydrogen plant, power plant and reformer to refine a wider range of crude with higher sulfur content.

The West County Toxics Coalition of Richmond and Communities for a Better Environment and the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, both of Oakland, sued the city and Chevron in September. The groups have argued the project could increase pollution in the area and endanger locals, and that the city-approved environmental document failed to analyze and mitigate all potential impacts.

"This could have increased pollution in Richmond and surrounding areas," attorney Will Rostov, representing the environmental groups, said in a written statement.

The oil giant contends its equipment is old, that it will continue to refine light to intermediate crudes and that its project is not a public health risk.

Brent Tippen, spokesman for the refinery, said, "We are disappointed and believe the Hydrogen Renewal Project was properly permitted." He added that the company believes the environmental review of the
project was thorough.

In her ruling, Zuniga also found the document did not take into account Praxair's proposal to build a 22-mile underground pipeline that would carry hydrogen from plants at the Chevron Richmond refinery to Martinez and possibly Rodeo. The city also "improperly" deferred developing a plan to deal with greenhouse gases for a year.

Chevron will be reviewing the details of the ruling and will talk to city officials about next steps, Tippen said.