Feds blast Chevron in report on 2012 refinery fire


The fire spewed a cloud of toxic smoke into the air that sent thousands to local hospitals complaining of breathing problems. Now, the United States Chemical Safety Board is recommending major changes to the way refineries are regulated in California. The report is due to be formally adopted Monday night at a public hearing.

In a new draft report, the CSB announced the Richmond fire was the result of more than a decade of safety failures by Chevron in a lax regulatory environment.

"We found that Chevron repeatedly, over a 10 year period, failed to effectively apply inherently safer design principles and upgrade piping at its crude oil processing facility," said CSB Western Regional Director Donald Holmstrom.

An earlier report by the CSB found Chevron management ignored their own employee's warnings about a corroded pipe that burst in August 2012, sending a plume of smoke across Richmond and the surrounding areas.

The latest draft report addresses what should be done to prevent similar failures at Chevron and the 14 other refineries in California.

"There would be audits and preventative inspections conducted by the regulator to verify effective implementation of safety case elements," said CSB investigator Dan Tellema.

The CSB recommends California set the standard for the country by following models in places like the United Kingdom, which has 100 inspectors for its five refineries. It's called a safety case model.

"It's very hard for us to fully inspect every one of our refineries, but we do know what happens when you drive a system to failure, as what happened at the Chevron plant," said St. Sen. Loni Hancock D-Oakland.

The CSB presented its draft for a 30 day public comment period. The board will be in Richmond January 15 for final adoption.

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