Court Rejects Chevron Refinery Expansion Appeal

On April 26, the First Appellate District of the California Court of Appeals, partially affirmed and remanded to the trial court Chevron’s appeal of the grant of a writ of mandate halting the expansion of the Chevron refinery in Richmond, California, based on an alleged faulty Environmental Impact Report (“EIR”).

In Communities for a Better Environment (“CBE”) v. City of Richmond, CBE obtained a writ from the trial court halting the replacement and upgrading of certain facilities at Chevron’s refinery. The project had been approved by the Richmond City Council, but CBE and others argued that the EIR failed to disclose, analyze and mitigate all the potential environmental impacts of the project. The trial court’s decision was based on its finding that the EIR violated CEQA by failing to provide an adequate project description, failing to consider the whole project, and failing to define mitigation measures for greenhouse gas emissions. Chevron appealed.

The Court of Appeals stated that, under CEQA requirements, “an EIR must describe the proposed project and its environmental setting, state the objectives sought to be achieved, identify and analyze the significant effects on the environment, state how those impacts can be mitigated or avoided, and identify and analyze alternatives to the project.” (§§ 21100, subd. (b), 21151; Cal. Code Regs., tit. 14, §§ 15124, 15125, 15126.6.)

Applying that standard, the appellate court found that the EIR was deficient in that it was “unclear and inconsistent” concerning the specific gravity of the crude oil that could be processed in the expanded Chevron facility, that the EIR improperly deferred measures designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and that the EIR failed to analyze the impact of a proposed hydrogen pipeline, carrying excess hydrogen out of the refinery. The EIR was thus inadequate as a matter of law, and the City of Richmond‘s decision to approve the project did not satisfy CEQA‘s requirements.

For a full text of the opinion, see here.