| RICHMOND, Calif., April 19
RICHMOND, Calif., April 19 Federal investigators
of Chevron's Richmond refinery fire last August gave
their initial assessment on Friday of what went wrong leading up
to a pipeline rupture which caused the blaze that has hobbled
the plant for eight months.
After a preview earlier in the week, the Chemical Safety
Board (CSB) presented initial findings to residents on a warm
night reminiscent of the clear evening on Aug. 6 when the plant
belched out a pitch-black smoke plume visible all over San
"Our community is not going to forget about this. We cannot
afford to forget," said Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, a Green
Party member, referring to 14 incidents at the refinery in the
past two decades. "This last 2012 incident was the last straw."
The refinery has a complex relationship with the
working-class city of about 100,000 people, just north of
Berkeley. The plant started working three years before Richmond
was founded in 1905, and provides a third of its tax revenue.
About 100 people attended the meeting on Friday night, at
the same auditorium where hundreds more publicly berated the
refinery boss and local officials less than a day after the
five-hour fire was brought under control.
The latest meeting was free of the shouts and occasional
insults heard from the crowd last time, though critics arrived
better armed with the facts unearthed by the CSB. George Miller,
the local member of Congress, cited a "red flag" raised by
Chevron itself in 2011 about the thinned pipe that ruptured.
The CSB, an investigative body with no enforcement or
regulatory powers, has advised Chevron to inspect all its U.S.
refineries and to report leading and lagging safety indicators
for its two California plants to regulators.
CSB Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso said problems at Richmond
were a reflection of the U.S. refining industry as a whole.
He also apologized for the absence of the CSB's regional
head, who had to miss the meeting while he investigates a deadly
Texas fertilizer plant explosion this week.
The Chevron blaze last August sent more than 15,000
residents to seek medical treatment for respiratory problems.
Chevron said it had already made changes to its process
hazard analysis and enhanced its damage mechanism review for the
refinery's units - all informed by its work with representatives
of the CSB as well as federal and local regulators.
"There should be no doubt of our commitment to work
cooperatively with the CSB and other oversight agencies on the
shared goal of effective and efficient regulation designed to
enhance the safety and reliability of refinery operations across
the entire industry," Chevron said in a statement issued to the
"Ongoing proceedings prevent us from participating directly
this evening," Chevron said.
Chevron says repairs to the 245,000-barrel-per-day crude
distillation unit that burned were completed in late March and
it is due to restart this month. The refinery has produced
transport fuels at about half-capacity due to its shutdown.