A long-awaited public hearing on the Big West of California refinery expansion is no longer expected to produce the fireworks the issue once promised.
The plan to boost gasoline and diesel production at the Rosedale Highway facility will go before the Kern County Planning Commission Thursday. The panel will take public comment before issuing a recommendation on the project to the Board of Supervisors.
Supervisors have the ultimate say in approving the expansion.
But the controversy that once enveloped the expansion seems to be over after county planners last week endorsed an alternative plan that does not include the use of a toxic chemical, and Big West supported the recommendation.
Two of the project’s main opponents praised Big West’s decision.
“I’m definitely not planning to raise a bunch of hell and damnation (at the hearing)” said Gloria Smith, an attorney with a Bay Area law firm that represents several local construction unions and an environmental group opposed to the chemical’s use at the refinery.
“We’re very happy they’re not using (the chemical). We consider that a huge victory.”
Likewise, Bakersfield Citizens Against Hydrofluoric Acid, a group of local police, firefighters, nurses and residents concerned about community safety, commended Big West for no longer pursuing its original project.
Big West had initially proposed to build new processes that would use the chemical modified hydrofluoric acid. An environmental analysis showed a catastrophic spill of the chemical could create a toxic cloud capable of impacting areas within 6.5 miles of the facility.
The alternative plan recommended by county planners, known as Alternative D, instead calls for the project to be built with equipment similar to what’s now used at the refinery.
Alternative D, county planning staff said last week, provides maximum protection to the environment and community while promoting oil production in the county.
Planning commissioners declined to comment on the project prior to the hearing.