Q&A: A Year After Refinery Fire, No “Culture of Safety” at Chevron”

Jul. 12, 2013 / By

 

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Question & Answer, Nicole Hudley

Editor’s Note: Last August, an explosion and fire at the Chevron refinery in Richmond, Calif. sent a vaporized plume into the sky and into surrounding communities that reportedly sent 15,000 people to emergency rooms. The fire and toxic release sparked both state and federal investigations that traced the root-cause to corroded pipes, and found that the company failed to fix the problem. A state working group on refinery safety that formed after the Chevron fire released its recommendations yesterday on how to increase public and worker safety and strengthen emergency preparedness in the event of a future disaster. One state policy currently being debated in Sacramento is Senate Bill 691, authored by State Senator Loni Hancock (D-Oakland). The bill would raise civil penalties for one-day air quality violations, such as the Aug. 6 Chevron refinery fire. Nicole Hudley spoke with Senator Hancock about the status of safety reforms.

Richmond Pulse: Why did you personally decide to address this issue with this legislation?

Senator Loni Hancock: After the fire at the Richmond Chevron refinery fire last year I really committed myself to doing everything that I possibly can to make sure that that never happens again. The more I found out about how it happened the more inexcusable it seemed.

The California Occupational Safety and Health Authority (Cal-OSHA) did an investigation, and also the federal Chemical Safety Board did an investigation, and one of the things they found out was that Chevron had known for over 10 years that the pipes were corroded. Their own engineers had asked for the pipes to be replaced, and something called the Business Impact Committee over-ruled the engineers.

A company making billions of dollars of profit every year did not, for over 10 years, replace corroded pipes and then you have this explosion and fire that could easily have killed people. We’re lucky that it didn’t, but that had very detrimental effects on the community.

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