Protests mark anniversary of Chevron fire in Richmond


John Deluna still has a video he shot last August 6. On that clear, summer afternoon, he watched from his balcony as a Chevron crude unit went up in flames.

"The smoke trail went up into the sky and then went up over the City of Richmond," he said.

The giant plume of black smoke forced nearby residents to shelter in place for hours.

Thousands were rushed to area emergency rooms complaining of health problems. Those affected later filed claims and lawsuits against the company.

And there have been other damages.

"In the last month, the county assessor revealed that every city in Contra Costa County's, property values have gone up, on the average by 30 percent, except for Richmond. And directly attributed it to the fire here," said community activist Andres Soto.

Saturday, 200 people were arrested at a protest at the refinery gates. Last week, the city filed a lawsuit against Chevron and Monday, the company settled a criminal case with Contra Costa County. That settlement requires the petroleum company to pay out $2 million in fines and restitution. Some of that money will go to a non-profit called RichmondBUILD.

Chevron says it has repaired and improved the crude unit, replacing thousands of pipe components and installed an air monitoring system.

"So, that's probably the best thing to date. We're going to have a lot better information next time, if there is one, that there's an accident. And we'll have better information about what people are exposed to day-to-day," said Denny Larson of Global Community Monitor.

Even with the acrimony that lingers between Chevron and the city, Councilman Tom Butt thinks the overall legacy of the fire will be a positive one.

"And I guess at the end of the day, we hope that it will all bode for a better refinery, a safer refinery and, you know, better quality of life for people who live in Richmond," he said.

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