California Environmental Lawsuit Costs 1,000 Jobs

California is struggling through its worst economic times in decades – a $24 billion state government budget deficit, 11.6 percent unemployment and a struggling real estate market. So the possibility of new jobs coming to ContraCostaCounty – a region hit with 12 percent unemployment seems like a welcome development, right? Not for the environmental left.

Two environmental groups, Earthjustice and Asian Pacific Environmental Network have hijacked the possibility by alleging in a lawsuit that pollution would increase if Chevron (NYSE:CVX) went ahead with a project to upgrade a refinery in the Contra Costa town of Richmond, outside of San Francisco. The facility still uses antiquated steam boilers that were built in the 1930s.

According to Chevron, the project would actually increase efficiency and decrease emissions. But the lawsuit halted the project and talks to continue have broken down. With that has come the loss of 1,000 jobs.

“I urge you to put yourself in our shoes,” said one woman at a hearing about the dispute. “I can’t pay my taxes, I can’t buy groceries, I can’t feed myself and I can’t support my family.”

And in stalling of the revitalization of the Chevron refinery, the environmentalists are harming far more than its workers.

“With the shutdown of the project and the contractors being let go, our hotels and motels have lost a lot of business,” said a representative from the Richmond Convention and Visitors Bureau. “This may not sound too earth-shaking to the casual person out there, but that represents a couple hundred jobs here in the community. Almost all of those jobs are Richmond residents. The longer that this injunction stays in place, the harder it is for those businesses and for us to stay open.”

Chevron has been a target of environmental groups and the media recently, as the company has faced more scrutiny with a verdict pending in an Ecuadorian court case, both CBS’s “60 Minutes” and The New York Times. Although Chevron previously remediated the site, the verdict could cost the company $27 billion in environmental claims.