Asthma or Jobs?

By Leticia Miranda Jul 03, 2009

That’s the question Chevron is asking Richmond, CA. This Wednesday, a Contra Costa Superior Court Judge sided with environmentalists and community groups in a lawsuit against the refinery to stop the company from manufacturing cruder types of oil until it can get a new environmental impact report that answers key questions and a new permit from the city. Even though the judge’s ruling didn’t kill the project completely, Chevron responded by swiftly laying off 100 workers right after the announcement with 1,000 more to go that were included under the upgrade, costing the city $50 million to $75 million in possible income. They also took back the promised $61 million to city projects. The company is playing ugly in this long battle against the Richmond community whose asthma rates in children are twice as high as the national average and whose unemployment rate is 7.4% and growing with the recession.

Greg Karras, senior scientist for Communities for a Better Environment, one of the plaintiffs in the case, told the San Francisco Chronicle, "The workers shouldn’t pay for Chevron’s mistake. The real solution is to replace the refinery’s ancient equipment. Design it right, design it for the same quality of oil."

As Richmond residents continue to suffer from health problems related to the refinery and high levels of unemployment, the company’s moves so far haven’t shown even the smallest compromise is possible.