Project is All-Around Bad Deal for Richmond
On July 16, I
cast one of the dissenting votes in the Richmond City
Council on motions to certify the environmental impact
report (EIR) and issue a conditional use permit for
Chevron's proposed expansion. Recently, local newspapers
ran a commentary by Vice Mayor John Marquez in which
he defends his vote for the controversial Chevron project
that was recently approved by the Council majority.
He makes the assertion that this project "has
restrictions and that the community derives benefits
from it." This statement contains serious misrepresentations
that necessitate a response.
No limit on the type of crude
Contrary to the statement that
his vote for the project "limits
the type of crude refined to light crude", nothing in
the Chevron Conditional Use Permit mentions anything
whatsoever about limiting to light crude. There is no
mention at all about any restrictions on any parameters
of oil quality entering the refining process. One piece
of equipment (SDA) will have a slightly reduced capacity,
but the equipment changes that were approved will enable
Chevron to refine heavier crude than the current baseline.
Refining heavier crude is known to create more pollutants
and greenhouse gases. The potential increase in toxic
pollution from refining heavier crude was not evaluated
in the EIR. With a "we know what's best for you" attitude,
the Council majority dismissed the concerns of hundreds
of community members speaking at the Planning Commission
and at the City Council meetings calling for protection
of the public health through specific limitations (a
crude cap) on the quality of crude oil Chevron can refine.
Agreement a "trade-off"
Another assertion is the notion
that the Community Benefits Agreement, secretly negotiated
with Chevron by the Council majority, is in the best
interest of Richmond residents. On the contrary, it
is clear that John Marquez, along with Nat Bates, Ludmyrna
Lopez, Harpreet Sandhu and Maria Viramontes, took the
money rather than agree to cap Chevron's crude. This
was a "quid pro quo", a trade-off of the
public health for a few paltry millions, to allow Chevron's
While the recent votes on this Chevron project reflect
the deep-seated problems of a divided council, there
is hope going forward! As mayor, I believe elected officials
have a responsibility to ensure the well-being of our
residents, which often means saying “no” to the demands
of big corporations. Navigating the roadblocks put up
by a city council majority takes away valuable time from
bringing about the kind of economy in Richmond that respects
the triple bottom line (social justice, environmental
health, and economic equity). While the Council majority
gets led into blind alleys by major corporations and
fast-talking developers, some of us have a stronger vision
about the kind of economy that will truly create a thriving
Richmond. Some of us hold a vision of Richmond that supports
and nurtures the green economy with green jobs for our
youth. Some of us hold a vision of a Richmond that offers
incentives to new businesses and promotes small businesses,
while seeking responsible practices among all our businesses.
Some of us realize that the Chevron
corporation, which made 18.7 billion (yes, billion) dollars
in profit last year should be paying more to Richmond,
which offers such a strategic location for its oil refining
operations. That is why many of us are coming together
to support Measure T, A Fair Share for Richmond www.AFairShareForRichmond.org .
I urge all who care about a better Richmond to vote yes
on Measure T and to get involved with promoting this
great campaign that, when passed, will bring in millions
to the City for much needed services and programs. Measure
T will not cost individual taxpayers a penny and it will
not affect any non-manufacturing businesses. Unlike the
Community Benefits Agreement, Measure T funds will be
generated on the people's terms and will be disbursed
through an open public process.
A robust economy for Richmond demands representatives
who, in marked distinction from the Chevron clique on
the Council, have the political will to grow a healthy,
vibrant, and fair economic future for our residents.
This demands a new economic sensibility, one that will
not sacrifice public process for corporate crumbs.
I take inspiration from the words of Ghanian novelist
Ayi Kwei Armah: I knew thenceforth that I would not spend
my life working for, fitting into, and promoting the
world order the slavers made. Instead, I would spend
my energies looking for ways of helping to create an
entirely different world. (from The Eloquence of the
As an observer in this local electoral
season (I am not up for reelection for another two years),
it is clear to me that attempts by City Council candidates
to elevate themselves by presenting falsehoods to the
public will prove to be futile efforts.
True representatives of the people
embrace public discourse, recognizing that they stand
their tallest when they stand for the public. There
is no place for secret deals in serving the public's
interest. This election year is not a battle for "control" of
the council. This is a struggle for control by the
community of its own collective interest. I encourage
the people of Richmond to take their destiny into their
own hands and vote for a better Richmond City Council.
I have endorsed Tom Butt www.TomButt.com ,
Jovanka Beckles www.JovankaBeckles.org and
Jeff Ritterman www.JeffRitterman.com because
they are clear that the future of Richmond must not be
left in the hands of big business. They join me in holding
big business accountable to the people...not the other
way around, as witnessed by the actions of the current
With the people of Richmond as my compass, I see a better
road ahead. I know that a better City Council is possible!
With your help, we will make this a reality in November!
Gayle McLaughlin Mayor, City of Richmond