RICHMOND (KCBS) – Chevron’s plans to upgrade its aging refinery in Richmond got a big boost on Tuesday night, as the Richmond City Council approved the project.

Chevron has been trying for years to upgrade the facility, as the refinery opened more than a century ago. But the $1 billion overhaul plan has faced staunch opposition from environmentalists, who have argued that the company is not going far enough to limit pollution and provide safety upgrades.

Many showed up at Tuesday’s city council meeting, arguing their case to vote against the project. “Chevron is trying to sell you a bill of goods here,” said one opponent of the plan. “The air is not clean. The work is not safe. There is nothing here to be proud of, but a paycheck at the expense of your fellow human beings.”

But supporters were also out in force, calling the plan a good deal for the city, as it would include $90 million in community investments over 10 years.

“I don’t know of any community anywhere in the world that would not want to have a billion dollar project brought into its community, in terms of investment, in terms of economic stimulation, in terms of the jobs,” said one supporter.

Chevron would replace its 1960s-era hydrogen plant with more modern technology. The company said the modernization would allow it to process crude oil blends , including those with high levels of sulfur. Chevron has also committed to upgrade carbon steel piping in its crude unit, as well as to install more air quality monitors.

Earlier this month, Chevron agreed to a plan backed by state Attorney General Kamala Harris, which set a hard cap on greenhouse gas emissions, while also reducing levels of sulfur processing.

Opponents remain concerned about safety upgrades at the facility, especially following a major fire at the refinery in 2012 that sent thousands of people to the hospital, complaining of breathing problems.


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