RICHMOND -- Along with investigations by a consortium of federal, state and regional agencies, Chevron's Richmond refinery will have to pass the muster of new city requirements in rebuilding the crude unit that burst into flames Aug. 6.
A unanimous City Council on Tuesday passed a resolution authorizing city staff to "ensure that Chevron uses the highest standards and best technology in the repair of their crude unit."
"It's our duty as a governing body to express expectations of our corporate neighbor," said Councilmember Jovanka Beckles, who co-sponsored the resolution with Mayor Gayle McLaughlin.
The resolution calls on the global energy giant's local refinery to improve safety, pay its "fair share" of taxes, hire more local residents, aid the city in education and economic development initiatives, and expedite installation of air quality monitors in the city, which it previously agreed to as part of a 2010 tax settlement.
Tuesday's resolution comes at a time of increasing backlash against Chevron. The Aug. 6 fire, caused by a deteriorated pipe in the No. 4 crude unit, sent more than 15,000 residents to seek treatment at area hospitals.
In recent days, Chevron has declined to enter into long-term leases for commercial and office space in the city's Marina Bay community and filed a new court challenge to a Contra Costa County property tax appeals board decision last spring that found the Richmond refinery was under-assessed by as much as $27 million. Investigations into the incident are expected to last several months.
The resolution also calls on the corporation to use the "best technology in the repair of their crude unit."
Chevron officials have said the 8-inch steel pipe whose failure caused the fire may have deteriorated due to low-silicon content, which allowed the oil's heat and sulfur to corrode it at an accelerated rate.
No Chevron representatives spoke publicly at Tuesday's meeting, but several residents criticized the resolution as symbolic and vague.
"This is a bold resolution," said resident Don Gosney. "But how do you accomplish this. ... What are consequences if they fail? This resolution is so poorly worded it's embarrassing." Resident Andres Soto was among the supporters. He praised the city for being the first agency to vow to impose new standards in the aftermath of the fire.
The Richmond refinery, Chevron's oldest, pays more than $30 million annually to the city in total taxes, said City Manager Bill Lindsay, nearly a third of the city's total general fund budget. It employs about 1,200 people, but fewer than 10 percent are Richmond residents, according to Chevron.
Lindsay said the resolution's provisions were comfortably in the purview of local government.
"The one (provision) that requires a different effort is the best technology in the repair of their crude unit," Lindsay said. "That would require coordination with the (Bay Area Air Quality Management District), but I see nothing troubling from a procedural point of view."