In what may be the first payment for mandatory greenhouse gas emission reduction credits or “carbon credits” in the United States, ConocoPhillips agreed to pay around $10 million to offset greenhouse gas emissions that will be emitted by the expansion of its Bay Area refinery. On Tuesday, September 11, Jerry Brown, the California Attorney General, announced that an agreement had been reached between the State and ConocoPhillips by which the company pay over $7 million for a carbon offset program that includes buying and scrapping older cars that generate more greenhouse gas emissions. The company will donate $2.8 million to reforestation efforts in California, donate $200,000 for restoration of the San Pablo Bay wetlands, and conduct an audit all of its California refineries to identify potential additional greenhouse gas reductions that could be implemented.
The State has agreed to dismiss its appeal of the approvals that the company was seeking in order to expand it Contra County Refinery. ConocoPhillips' proposed oil refinery expansion, known as the Clean Fuels Expansion Project, includes a hydrogen plant that will help make an estimated 1 million gallons per day of cleaner-burning gasoline and diesel fuels from the heavy portion of crude oil.
Interestingly, the battle was fought over land use, rather than environmental permits, such as air emission permits. In September 2005, Contra Costa County prepared an environmental impact report, which was later certified by the county's planning commission. However, the Attorney General challenged the environmental documentation for the project this May, saying it did not adequately address the extra 500,000 to 1.25 million metric tons of carbon dioxide that would be emitted each year.
The agreement comes before the California climate change legislation goes into effect. The legislation will call for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in California to 1990 levels by 2020, a 25% reduction. The agreement with ConocoPhillips will stay in effect until 2012, when that mandatory cap goes into effect.