MARTINEZ -- Contra Costa County protesters gathered in Martinez on Thursday to denounce Chevron's pursuit of a multimillion-dollar tax refund, saying it would raid taxpayer resources.
Shortly after noon, about five dozen protesters gathered next to the county administrative offices at 651 Pine Street, where Chevron representatives were meeting in a hearing with the county's assessment appeals board.
Protesters held signs and a banner bearing the phrase "Occupy Chevron", while listening to Richmond activists, city officials and residents speak through a megaphone about the corporation's request for a $50 million refund on property taxes paid for its Richmond refinery.
Chevron officials said Thursday that since 2004, the company has overpaid property taxes due to the county assessors' over-valuing of the company's property, prompting the bid for a refund.
Earlier this year, Chevron representatives began meeting with the county assessment appeals board to negotiate a refund for property taxes the corporation paid between 2007 and 2009, Chevron spokesman Dean O'Hair said.
The company has already received an $18 million tax refund settlement from the county for taxes paid for 2004 through 2006, he said.
County Assessor Gus Kramer said Chevron requested a $36 million property tax refund for those years.
Shortly after the county assessment appeals board issued the decision to pay Chevron $18 million, the oil company filed a lawsuit seeking a greater refund from the county for the 2004-2006 property tax assessments, Kramer said.
He said that so far, negotiations with Chevron have reached a standstill.
"Dealing with Chevron right now is like trying to get a loan modification on your mortgage... it's impossible," he said.
But O'Hair said the corporation is simply hoping to come out of negotiations with a fair assessment of its property.
"People want to know that Chevron is paying its fair share of taxes and we're engaged in a process with the county that will determine that amount," he said.
He added that Chevron would work with the county to ensure that a future property tax refund wouldn't interfere with essential county services.
Protesters today, including Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and City Councilwoman Jovanka Beckles condemned the massive oil firm's appeal for more tax dollars, citing the company's multibillion-dollar profits over the last three months alone.
"Chevron has been harming us for decades," taking a toll on the local environment and on residents' health and running the risk of accidents and toxic releases at the Richmond refinery, McLaughlin told protesters. "Yet they want to take our taxes away."
She said that last month, Richmond's City Council passed a resolution asking Chevron to drop its appeal.
County Supervisor John Gioia said that if the county was ordered to pay the refund, "it would impact library services, fire, law enforcement, and other vital county services."
Chevron has also appealed the county's property value assessment of its land for the years 2010 and 2011, O'Hair said.