Council Calls for Reduced Airborne
Richmond was born an industrial town of sooty petroleum refineries
and locomotives, but its future should be based on low-emission,
high-tech industries, the City Council declared Tuesday.
After a long, and sometimes contentious, public debate, the
Council voted 5-1 to declare the city in recognition of a lower
standard of carbon dioxide levels in the air.
<View resolution and supporting materials here.>
The new standard, 350 CO2 parts-per-million (ppm), was established
by a team of scientists and environmentalists who argue that
the ratio should be the upper limit for how much carbon dioxide
is in the earth’s air. According
to research published by the National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in 2008, the current
level worldwide stands at 387 ppm; about 40 percent higher
than at the onset of the Industrial Revolution.
Although the recognition has no legal force nor costs, Councilman Jeff
Ritterman, who introduced the resolution with the support
Gayle McLaughlin and Councilman Jim Rogers, said he hoped
the resolution would raise awareness and spur public debate
about climate change.
“I really wanted to do something on the local level,” Ritterman
said. “We didn’t get much international leadership on this
in Copenhagen,” Ritterman added, referring to the United Nations
Climate Change Conference held in Copenhagen, Denmark in December
The Council’s adoption of the measure, which includes an agreement
to begin organizing community meetings to draw input for possible
future local climate measures, comes amid intensifying public
debate over the city’s largest employer, Chevron
California Attorney General Jerry
Brown has proposed that the local Chevron refinery upgrade
old infrastructure and improve energy efficiency in exchange
for environmental groups’ dropping their objections to expansion
in Chevron’s refining operations.
Dozens of community members spoke out during public debate,
most in criticism of Chevron.
The lone dissent on the council for the air quality declaration
came from Councilman
Nat Bates, who at one point called his council colleagues
“socialists.” He also accused McLaughlin, a member of the Green
Party, and Ritterman of working to “run Chevron out of town.”
“This city is going to be a ghost town,” Bates said of what
would happen if Chevron ceased local operations. Rumors that
Chevron may consider closing its Richmond refinery have swirled
of late. The refinery employs about 1,200 workers. Bates said
Chevron pays the city nearly $35 million annually in total
McLaughlin and Councilman Tom
Butt said they hoped the resolution would be part of
a larger effort to establish Richmond as an environmentally-friendly
city and a hot spot for green technology and industry. Butt
said Richmond had recently been accepted to Green
Cities California, a coalition of local governments calling
for policies that support sustainable development.
On Jan. 27, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger toured
a local solar panel manufacturing company to tout his
statewide jobs growth plan.