Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) sued the Bay Area Air Quality Management District in federal court this week over the district’s allowance of a billion-dollar modernization project at Chevron’s Richmond refinery. The complaint seeks injunctive relief and alleges that the air district issued a permit for Chevron’s planned expansion of its Richmond refinery without the proper public review or analysis of the project’s effects on the environment.
“The air district issued the permit for the Chevron modernization project before the environmental impact report had even been voted on by the city of Richmond. Letting oil refineries expand without requiring — or even looking for — measures to prevent the resultant air pollution threatens our health,” said CBE attorney Roger Lin.
Chevron officials said they want to replace some of the oldest processing equipment with newer technology that’s more energy efficient and safer to operate. An environmental impact report noted that the upgrade would allow the refinery to process even dirtier crude oil. The City of Richmond’s 4,000-page environmental impact report noted that the upgrade would allow the refinery to process even dirtier crude than it already does, doubling the sulfur content of the crude processes from 1.5 percent on average to 3 percent on average. But despite processing more sulfur, Chevron said the newer technology proposed in the project will not increase sulfur emissions.
“This permit, without public disclosure or environmental review, is like a ticking time bomb,” said Nile Malloy, the environmental organization’s program director. He said the group isn’t trying to scuttle the project but wants to make it safer.