Together a Century, City and Oil Giant Hit a Rough Patch
The Chevron refineryís massive oil storage tanks sit on the hills overlooking this small, impoverished city in San Franciscoís East Bay. Painted earthen red to blend with the natural surroundings, the tanks cannot help dominating the cityís skyline, much the way the oil giant itself has long shaped Richmondís identity, economy and politics.
But Chevronís grip on Richmondís politics began to loosen a few years ago after left-wing anticorporate activists seized control of the City Council and mayorís office. In an area of the country where high-tech companies tend to coexist peacefully with affluent municipalities, perhaps nowhere have locals and a giant corporation rubbed shoulders with such intensity as in Richmond.
If city leaders likened themselves to anti-oil-company fighters in Nigeria, Ecuador and other developing oil-rich nations, Chevronís response would not have been out of place in the Niger Delta. It has spent millions of dollars on social programs and community-building here, as well as on friendly politicians.
Now, Chevron will get an inkling of whether its new strategy is working as the city weighs the companyís plans to rebuild a critical unit damaged in a major fire in August. Chevron says it wants to complete repairs this month at the refinery, where production has been cut in half since the fire.