Richmond considers refinery tax act for Chevron refinery

Voters in Richmond could have the final say on a proposal to tax the Chevron refinery.

On Tuesday night, the city council voted unanimously to ask the city attorney to prepare a Richmond Refinery Tax Act ballot initiative.

A city report finds Richmond has a $24 million gap in its 2024 budget, and the city needs new revenue to balance the budget.

Supporters of the proposal say big companies and polluters like Chevron aren't paying their fair share, and causing millions in health care bills for Richmond residents.

"Every day, big polluters in Richmond endanger our communities' health," Vice Mayor Claudia Jiminez said. "We are talking about big corporations, not small businesses who are enriching themselves at the expense of our families."

"We have to think about our future. Richmond has been a refinery town for more than 100 years. But it won't be 100 years from now," Mayor Eduardo Martinez added.

Supporters point out that Richmond residents have a higher asthma rate than 90 percent of the rest of the state.

And neighborhoods near the refinery have a higher asthma rate than 99 percent of the state.

In a lengthy statement, Chevron touted its strong relationship with Richmond, noting it's been 100 years.

The company also said that Chevron is Richmond's largest employer and taxpayer and plays a "pivotal role in the economic vitality of the Richmond community."

Chevron said it has contributed more than $2 billion since 2015.

However, Chevron added, the company believes the proposed refining tax is the "wrong approach to do that."

Chevron called the proposal "hasty," and brought forward by "activist interests." 

"An additional punitive tax burden reduces our ability to make investments in our facility to provide the affordable, reliable and ever-cleaner energy our community depends on every day," Chevron said.