Richmond to sue Chevron over 2012 refinery fire

August 1, 2013 5:44:39 PM PDT
ABC7 News has learned that the city of Richmond will file suit against Chevron Friday morning for damages related to the refinery explosion and fire almost one year ago. Thousands of residents went to the hospital because of the pollutants in the air.

The mayor of Richmond declined to comment on the lawsuit Thursday, but will hold a news conference Friday along with the lawyer the city has hired, Joe Cochet and his law firm out of Burlingame.

On August 6 at 6:15 in the evening, a corroded pipe in a crude oil unit ruptured. The fire and smoke blanketed the skies over Richmond sending more than 15,000 residents to hospitals. They were having trouble breathing and complained about other respiratory problems. Thousands filed individual claims against the giant refinery.

The Richmond City Council first broached the idea in May of hiring lawyers to sue Chevron. Instead, they decided to continue trying to reach a settlement out of court, but councilmember Jim Rogers told ABC7 News that Chevron was a tough opponent. "They're not an easy company to negotiate with. They hold their cards close to the chest. They play hard ball," he said.

Both sides were too far apart. Two weeks ago, councilmembers voted to hire the Burlingame law firm. Community activist Andres Soto, with Communities for a Better Environment," believes it's time a lawsuit was filed against Chevron.

"Chevron owes the people of Richmond as well as the city of Richmond literally, hundreds of millions of dollars based on the damage they've done to our community over time, not just the August 6, 2012 toxic explosion and fire," he said.

The lawsuit asks for damages for the cleanup and emergency response as well as the impact the fire had on property values and on the environment.

Chevron responded to ABC7 News inquiries with a statement saying, "We cannot comment on the merits of a lawsuit that we have not yet seen, but we believe the decision to pursue such a suit is a waste of the city's resources and yet another example of its failed leadership."


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