MARTINEZ -- Chevron has filed a court challenge to a Contra Costa County property tax appeals board decision last spring that found the Richmond refinery was under-assessed by as much as $27 million.
Company spokesman Sean Comey said the lawsuit filed in Superior Court late Monday will protect the corporation's legal rights while it continues to negotiate a broader settlement in its epic eight-year legal battle over the refinery's taxable value.
"We're confident we will reach a comprehensive resolution," Comey said. "We've been in negotiations with a mediator and the assessor, and I'm told there has been progress."
Chevron is already suing the Contra Costa Assessment Appeal Board's 2004-2006 decision. The refinery sought a $73 million tax refund for that period, but was awarded $17 million. The county, cities and special districts had to repay money that most had already spent on local services.
This latest lawsuit stems from the 2007-2009 assessment and subsequent appeal. Chevron argued it overpaid $73 million but the county appeals board ordered the company to pay an additional $27 million. The deadline to file a lawsuit was Tuesday.
Chevron has also appealed its 2010-2012 refinery fair-market values as set by Contra Costa Assessor Gus Kramer.
Kramer was unavailable for comment Tuesday.
Contra Costa Supervisor John Gioia, whose district includes the refinery, hopes the parties will settle and put an end to the fiscal anxiety generated by the massive unresolved tax dispute.
"My understanding is that Chevron is willing to drop all its appeals and forgo any refunds if it can reach an agreement with the assessor on (valuation) policies going forward," Gioia said. "While I am disappointed that Chevron filed the lawsuit, I am hopeful there will be an agreement between the company and the assessor that is fair to the taxpayers of this county and includes no refunds back to Chevron."
Chevron, the county's largest taxpayer, has characterized its decision to appeal the refinery's taxable value as one of fairness.
Its attorneys have accused Kramer of setting unsupported, arbitrary and excessive fair-market values on the Richmond refinery, which serve as the basis of property tax assessments. The lawsuit alleges the appeals board made similar errors.
Kramer has previously defended his refinery values as accurate and described Chevron as a corporate "bully" trying to bury the county in a costly and unrelenting legal assault.
The battle over its property tax assessments comes at the same time Chevron is pushing the city to approve an expansion at its refinery. A massive, smoky fire in a crude oil unit at the plant Aug. 6 sent 15,000 people to area hospitals seeking treatment for breathing and other respiratory problems.
Contact Lisa Vorderbrueggen at 925-945-4773, Twitter @lvorderbrueggen or www.facebook.com/lvorderbrueggen.