By BEN LEFEBVRE
The US Environmental Protection Agency is
conducting a criminal investigation into alleged pollutant
emissions at Chevrons refinery in Richmond, Calif.
The investigation into whether Chevron routed sulfur dioxide
and other pollutants to bypass the refinery's air emissions monitoring system is the
latest black eye against the company's 245,000 bpd
The company is still dealing with the aftermath of an August
fire at the plant that sent plumes of black smoke over the San
Francisco Bay and sent hundreds of area residents to the
hospital complaining of respiratory and eye problems.
The EPA investigation focuses on emissions during a three-year
period, said Wayne Kino, enforcement manager at the Bay Area
Air Quality Management District.
Chevron in 2011 paid a $170,000 settlement to the BAAQMD
stemming from the agency's civil complaint about the refinery
routing pollutants past monitoring systems.
Some of the refinery's pipes were not connected
to monitoring systems put into place after the agency developed
new emission rules, Mr. Kino said.
We would require them to either monitor [the
pollutants] or reroute them into the whole system, Mr.
During the period investigated by the BAAQMD, the refinery sent an unknown amount of
sulfur and waste oil to be burned at the plant's flare, Mr.
When asked about the criminal investigation into the Chevron
refinery's routing of pollutants, the EPA declined to comment
on what it called ongoing enforcement matters.
Chevron said it learned about the current EPA investigation
The emissions being investigated
occurred in 2011 and involved 200 pounds of sulfur dioxide,
Chevron spokesman Sean Comey said.
We are currently cooperating with the government's
investigation, Mr. Comey said of the EPA
The refinery is the largest in the San Francisco Bay Area
and accounts for nearly 10% of the refining capacity in the US West
Coast. It produces gasoline, diesel fuel and assorted petrochemicals.
A separate investigation is underway at the refinery as to what caused the
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