The proposed expansion could allow processing of heavier, dirtier crude oil that could increase pollution in a community where children are already hospitalized for asthma at almost twice the rate of children in the rest of the county. The only way to protect the health of the community is to have a new Environmental Impact Report that fully studies the issue, or a negotiated agreement that guarantees the community will not be polluted by dirtier oil refining and that reduces pollution.
Community Continues Fight for Cleaner Air
For two years, a coalition of community groups have demanded an enforceable commitment from Chevron that its project will not worsen the refinery's impact on the health of the community. The coalition includes Communities for a Better Environment, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, and the West County Toxics Coalition. They are represented by Earthjustice.
"My granddaughter and I have asthma and can't breathe because of the dirty air near the refinery," said Long Samphalan, a member of the Asian Pacific Environmental Network. "Chevron is already dumping too much pollution and wants to dump even more."
"Our community is already disproportionately harmed by toxic emissions from the refinery," said Leonard Webster, Richmond resident and member from West County Toxics Coalition. "People are dying and paying ongoing doctor bills, we need guarantees that this project will not harm even more people in this community."
After Chevron publicly refused to agree to a cap on heavier crude oil production at the site, community groups took their case to court.
On June 4th 2009, the Judge Zuniga agreed with the residents and said:
"...the EIR fails as an informational document because the project description is unclear and inconsistent as to whether the project will or will not enable Chevron to process a heavier crude slate than it is currently processing."
"Chevron is standing in the way of good jobs, a cleaner environment, and healthier residents," said Richmond resident Nick Jones, Atchinson Village Environment Committee and retired SEIU member. "There does not have to be a trade off. This could be the beginning of creating a cleaner, greener, and healthier economy in Richmond. Our future depends on this."
"Chevron is asking the residents of Richmond to overlook the added pollution they plan to generate when their refinery switches to a dirtier, heavier crude oil," said Jessica Tovar, a community organizer with Communities for a Better Environment. "This increase in dangerous pollutants already raining down on neighbors will send more residents and children into health clinics with asthma and other health problems. We asked Chevron to formally commit to limiting their pollution but they refused."
Brian Smith, Earthjustice, (510) 550-6700