Feds want tougher refinery oversight in California
RICHMOND, Calif. (AP) -- Federal refinery safety regulators are recommending California change how it oversees oil refineries in the wake of a massive fire at a Chevron Corp. facility in Richmond that sent thousands of residents seeking medical attention.
The U.S. Chemical Safety Board released a draft report on Monday of its investigation of the August 2012 fire. It calls on California to implement a more rigorous safety system similar to ones used in Europe and Australia.
The board's investigators found previously that Chevron failed to act on warnings from its own inspectors to replace a pipe dating back to the 1970s that had corroded and failed.
The report found state and federal oversight is largely reactive, and recommended a new system requiring refinery operators to more diligently monitor safety systems before an accident occurs.
"In Richmond, a full, comprehensive inspection of the refinery is ongoing," Chevron spokeswoman Melissa Ritchie said in a statement Monday. "To date, we have inspected thousands of individual piping components, and are replacing them as necessary based on the results of these inspections. We are also implementing a multi-million dollar expansion of our air monitoring system to include several sites in the surrounding communities."
In August, Chevron agreed to pay $2 million in fines and restitution and pleaded no contest to six charges, including failing to correct deficiencies in equipment and failing to require the use of certain equipment to protect employees from potential harm.
In January, the company said in a report to county health officials that it had already paid about $10 million in connection to nearly 24,000 claims from residents, and in compensation to area hospitals and local government agencies in Richmond and in Contra Costa County.
Company officials said most of that $10 million went to hospitals for medical exams and treatment immediately following the incident.