The Good Neighbor Agreement

 

The Good Neighbor Agreement between the refinery and our local community groups is truly an historic document. This legally-binding contract is without precedent in terms of either its breadth or its scope. It is our hope that by making this document available here in its entirety, we will be able to help foster the emergence of similar agreements elsewhere.

The final agreement, as well as the subsequent Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which lays out the specifics of the fenceline monitoring system, were reached only after countless rounds of intense, hard-fought negotiations with the UNOCAL corporation. None of this was easy. Seemingly every word in these agreements was a subject of contention at some point. The staff at Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) in San Franciso must be given the majority of the credit for making this agreement a reality.

The communities of Crockett and Rodeo continue to enjoy many benefits from the Good Neighbor Agreement, and are now safer places to live since the agreement has gone into effect. Clearly, everyone in these communities surrounding the refinery owes the CBE staff a tremendous debt of gratitude.

CBE did not work alone, however, and it is clear that it was the partnership which developed between CBE and local community volunteers which allowed the GNA to become the tremendous sucess that it is. Scores of volunteers, many of whom became active in the community for the first time, stepped forward and volunteered their time in this effort. This is how our group, The Shoreline Environmental Alliance, was born.

For all the hard-fought negotiations that would follow, perhaps the most difficult step, certainly the key step, was getting UNOCAL to agree to enter into the Good Neighbor Agreement negotiations in the first place. This was a complicated process in itself, but suffice it to say that CBE staffers and local residents were able to effectively intervene in UNOCAL's application process for a Land Use Permit from the Contra Costa County Planning Commission.

In 1994, all four refineries in the county were required to obtain additional Land-Use permits for the plant modifications made neccessary by California's new Reformulated Gasoline laws. It was to our good fortune that UNOCAL had not completed their application process for their new permit in September of '94, when details of the callous, criminal, and profit-motivated "Catacarb Incident" first came to light. UNOCAL managers attempted unsucessfullly to argue that their criminal misconduct (intentionally allowing a leaking tower to spew more than 100 tons of toxic "catacarb" material over the surrounding commuinites for a 16-day period) was irrelevant, and that they should be allowed to proceed with their planned expansion without having to make any further concessions to the surrounding communities.

Eventually, the County's Planning Commissioners sided with us and included in UNOCAL's new Land Use Permit provisions requiring the refinery to enter into some type of "Good Neighbor" negotiations with local citizens groups. Another condition in UNOCAL's Land Use Permit deals specifically with the refinery's commitment to test and install a fenceline monitoring system.

The lesson which other communities in industrial areas can take from our experience is that Permit Intervention of this type can be effective. Whether it's a federal "Title V" operating permit, a water discharge permit of some type, or a local Land-Use permit as in our case, it is clear that the various permitting processes can provide communities with opportunities to obtain concessions from local industries.

Three documents are available here for you to view or download with The Acrobat Reader. The first is a two-page outline of the Good Neighbor Agreement. The second is The Agreement itself. The third is the MOU regarding the required design specifications of the fenceline monitoring system.

These files take a while to download; especially the full agreement, but hey, it took us 8-months just to negotiate the thing. So be patient!

 

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Outline of the Agreement (2pages)

The Good Neighbor Agreement (22 pages)

MOU regarding fenceline monitoring system (4 pages)

 

If you have any questions about these documents, please feel free to contact us by e-mail. If you are interested in ideas about how you might begin the process of negotiating toward this type of agreement with an industrial neighbor in your community, we highly recommend that you contact the organizations listed on our Friends page. These are groups with real expertise in this area, and are staffed with people who are dedicated to just this type of endeavour. Certainly we will never be able to thank them enough for the support they have given us.

 

 

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