Chevron’s Latest Disaster in California

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Chevron’s Latest Disaster in California

WASHINGTON - AP reports: “Investigators were looking at how a small, seemingly insignificant leak at one of the country’s biggest oil refineries quickly unraveled into an intense fire that sent acrid black smoke into the sky and hundreds of people to hospitals with health complaints.

“This latest disruption at Chevron’s refinery in this city about 10 miles northwest of San Francisco — one of the West Coast’s big refineries — was expected to affect gasoline prices in the region. …

“Richmond’s mayor, some residents and community groups have criticized the company’s response as too slow, marking the latest conflict between Chevron and the area’s residents. The refinery has been the target of complaints and lawsuits by residents of the mostly low-income community. The area is home to five major oil refineries.

“Emotions ran high during a Tuesday night community meeting in Richmond, where hundreds of people heckled a panel of Chevron and local officials.”

ANTONIA JUHASZ, antoniajuhasz [at] gmail.com, @AntoniaJuhasz
Juhasz is author of The Tyranny of Oil: The World’s Most Powerful Industry — and What We Must Do to Stop It. She is the editor and lead author of three Alternative Annual Reports for Chevron, “The True Cost of Chevron.” She is former director of the Chevron Program at Global Exchange.

Juhasz said today: “Chevron is California’s largest corporation and its single largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions because of the Chevron Richmond refinery. Built in 1902, the refinery shows its age. Rather than use its $27 billion in profits to run the cleanest, safest, and most transparent refinery possible, Chevron runs the Richmond refinery in constant violation of federal law and in violation of the health and safety of its workers and nearby residents.

“As of March 2012, the refinery has been in noncompliance of Clean Water Act and National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System dischargers in every quarter but one since at least April 2009. From at least 2006 to July 2010, the refinery was in ‘high priority violation’ of Clean Air Act compliance standards, the most serious level of violation noted by the EPA. Under constant pressure from community organizations, Chevron has been assessed hundreds of thousands of dollars in penalties for repeated violation of the Clean Air Act.

“This is the third major explosion at the refinery in twelve years, each caused by a leaking pipe. In January 2007 a giant explosion rocked the refinery, leading to a five-alarm fire and 100-foot flames which burned for nine hours. A leaking corroded pipe ‘that should have been detached two decades ago,’ was to blame. In March 1999, an 18,000 pound plume of sulfur dioxide smoke was released in an explosion caused by a leak in a more than 30 year old pipe.

“Chevron is not alone. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board, which investigates major incidents at oil refineries, recently concluded that nationwide, although the oil industry is hands down the richest in the world, its safety at U.S. refineries has not improved despite scores of fatalities over the last decade and won’t until companies develop better safety systems.”

ROGER KIM,  roger [at] apen4ej.org, www.apen4ej.org
Also via Sandy Saeteurn, sandy [at] apen4ej.org
Kim is executive director of the Asian Pacific Environmental Network based in Oakland. The group put out a statement Tuesday: “We believe that Chevron’s actions over the past years are immoral, irresponsible and typical given the paradigm they have known for 110 years. The earth’s oil supply is decreasing and Chevron must, through any means necessary, wring out every cent of profit it can from what it has in the earth’s reserves — we do not agree with Chevron’s world view that profit trumps safety. …

“To compound Chevron’s lack of safety accountability in last night’s refinery fire/explosion, the multi-lingual warning systems that APEN and our allies fought for and won, failed. Many residents reported not being properly notified and are now experiencing dizziness, headaches and other symptoms of exposure to toxins. We are documenting community stories so that we can build better protocols in the future.”

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A nationwide consortium, the Institute for Public Accuracy (IPA) represents an unprecedented effort to bring other voices to the mass-media table often dominated by a few major think tanks. IPA works to broaden public discourse in mainstream media, while building communication with alternative media outlets and grassroots activists.

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