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Richmond City Council decides whether to move forward with refinery tax measure

Richmond City Council to decide whether to create refinery tax
Richmond City Council to decide whether to create refinery tax 02:14

On Tuesday night, the Richmond City Council will decide whether to move forward with a tax measure for the refinery.

The proposal calls for a business tax of $1.00 per barrel of oil refined in the city, which could add up to $60 million to $90 million per year in revenue.

Residents are torn on whether such a tax is a good idea. 

Sandy Saeteurn has lived in Richmond most of her life and is now raising her family here.

"My 10-year-old son at 14 months old was diagnosed with cancer, and so I know living here in Richmond the refineries are definitely impacting the health of the community," said Saeteurn. 

That's why she's gotten involved with the Asian Pacific Environmental Network Action committee, and now with the tax measure to collect one dollar from the refineries for each barrel of oil they process in the city.

"This 'Polluters Pay Measure' is really important to them giving back to the community in all the ways we need them to and be a good neighbor and supporting the services like clean air and clean water," said Saeteurn.

Oscar Garcia is a board member for the 23rd Street Merchant's Association. He said the way the current tax measure is written, any money collected from the refineries just goes into the general fund and the city council can spend it however it sees fit.

"They could potentially use these monies for pet projects that the everyday Richmond resident will not benefit from," says Garcia. 

Right now, about 40% of the city's tax revenue is generated from the Chevron Richmond Refinery. In a statement Chevron said "This is a punitive tax that could be used to fund pet projects of the activist council members that brought it forward and was written without any accountability for how they spend it. We need policies that encourage investment, increase job opportunities and improve air quality. This tax will do the opposite."

Saeteurn argues that allowing the tax to go to the general fund is actually more beneficial.

"We don't want to write out something that in five years, 10 years is outdated, and doesn't provide us flexibility to what the community needs in those moments," she said. 

If the council does approve the tax measure tonight, it would go on the November general election ballot for Richmond residents. It would need a simple majority to pass.

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