By BEN LEFEBVRE
Chevron agreed to pay nearly $2 million in fines and
restitution stemming from the August 2012 fire at its refinery
in Richmond, California, which sent hundreds of nearby
residents to emergency rooms with breathing problems.
Chevron's no contest plea agreement comes after the Contra
Costa District Attorney's Office and the California Department
of Justice charged the company with six criminal violations of
the state's labor and health and safety codes.
The fire occurred after a corroded pipe burst in the 245,000
bpd refinery's crude distillation unit, a major piece of
equipment that heats oil to extreme temperatures before sending
it to other machines for processing. The resulting fire emitted
black smoke over the San Francisco Bay that could be seen for
The fire had already hit Chevron's bottom line, as repair
work forced the company to run the refinery at reduced rates
for the better part of the year. The suspension of operations
at the refinery, the largest in the San
Francisco area that accounts for 10% of the fuel refining capacity on the West Coast,
also raised gasoline prices in the region.
California's state Occupational Safety and Health division
also fined Chevron $1 million in January, a citation Chevron is
appealing. The blaze increased community opposition to the refinery; last weekend, police
arrested hundreds of people who had gathered at the site to
protest the one year anniversary of the fire.
In all, Chevron will pay nearly $1.3 million in fines and
penalties, $575,000 to local government agencies for costs
related to the fire response and $145,000 into a fund for
training skilled workers in the construction and renewable energy
industries, the district attorney's office said.
Chevron will also be on probation for three and a half
years, during which the company must inspect every piece of
pipe identified as being susceptible to certain types of
corrosion, the District Attorney's office said.
Chevron said it reimbursed residents and local government
agencies in Richmond and west Contra Costa County for medical
and response costs. "We are committed to continuous improvement
in process safety and reliability at the refinery,"
Chevron spokeswoman Melissa Ritchie said. Chevron said in a
statement that it is also installing what it described as a
"multi million dollar" air monitoring system at the refinery.
Dow Jones Newswires