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Five Years After Chevron Oil Refinery Fire, California Finalizes New Safety Regulations

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Five years after a massive fire sent toxic smoke billowing into the air above Chevron Corporation’s oil refinery in Richmond, California, the state has finalized new regulations intended to prevent similar accidents.

“The goal of these regulations is to hold refineries accountable for the safety of workers and communities,” Matthew Rodriquez, California Secretary for Environmental Protection, said in a statement issued on August 4th. “Thanks to input from refinery workers, industry leaders and environmental and community organizations, we can better anticipate problems and prevent accidents that might pose serious risks to the public and environment.”

Most of California’s 15 Oil Refineries Located in Densely Populated Areas

Fifteen oil refineries are located in California, mostly in densely-populated areas around Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay. The new regulations were developed by the Interagency Working Group on Refinery Safety, which was created by Gov. Jerry Brown in response to the 2012 Chevron refinery fire in Richmond. They are set to take effect on October 1st.

Key features of California’s new refinery regulations include:

  • Greater employer accountability for the mechanical integrity of refinery equipment.
  • Requirements to adopt inherently safer designs and systems to the greatest extent feasible.
  • Greater employee involvement in all aspects of a refinery’s safety and prevention program.
  • Regular assessments of workplace safety culture to determine if refinery management is appropriately emphasizing safety over production pressures.
  • Authority for refinery personnel to shut down a unit, if needed, during any unsafe condition or emergency, as well as provisions that allow employees to anonymously report safety hazards.
  • Requirements for investigations to determine root causes of any accidents and develop interim and permanent corrective measures in response.
  • Annual public reporting of refinery safety metrics under the California Accidental Release Prevention (CalARP) program.

Chevron Oil Refinery Fire

The Chevron oil refinery in Richmond is located just 15 miles from San Francisco. On the evening of August 6, 2012, a fire broke out in one of the facility’s towers and spread to at least three units used to cool water.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) later determined that the Chevron refinery fire was caused by a corroded and leaky pipe, which released a vapor cloud that surrounded 19 workers while they were attempting to make repairs. The cloud ignited within minutes, creating what witnesses called a “wall of fire” and releasing a cloud of smoke that could be seen throughout the Bay Area.

Miraculously, six workers sustained only minor injuries. However, residents in the vicinity of the Chevron refinery were warned to shelter in place for more than 9 hours, while thousands sought medical aid at area hospitals for respiratory and other problems.

The CSB ultimately determined that the Chevron refinery fire was preventable, blaming it on regulatory shortcomings, a flawed safety culture within the company, and an inadequate response by Chevron’s emergency crews.

A year after the fire, Chevron agreed to pay $2 million in fines and restitution in connection with the Richmond refinery fire.  The company also pled no contest to six criminal charges filed by the California Attorney General’s Office and the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office.

In July, Cal/OSHA announced a settlement with Chevron which requires the company to undertake equipment and safety upgrades at the Richmond refinery worth around $20 million.

Contact Our Undefeated Refinery Explosion Lawyers for a Free Consultation at 1-888-603-3636

In just the past 10 years alone, our Undefeated Refinery Explosion Lawyers at Zehl & Associates have recovered more than $1 billion for our clients, winning record-breaking verdicts and settlements in every major industrial explosion in recent memory, including:

  • BP Deepwater Horizon Offshore Oil Rig Explosion
  • BP Texas City Explosion
  • Williams Geismar Explosion
  • Williams Gibson Explosion
  • Imperial Sugar Explosion
  • International Paper Explosion

Consultations are always free. And because we only represent clients on a contingency basis, you’ll pay nothing unless we win your case.

If you or someone you love was severely injured in a refinery explosion or other industrial accident, please contact our Undefeated Explosion Lawyers for a Free, No-Obligation Consultation at 1-888-603-3636 or by Clicking Here.