Chevron Hit with Record Fine Over Refinery Fire

Chevron refinery fire (via Occupy Oakland)

Chevron USA was fined $1 million stemming from an August 6 refinery fire at Richmond, California by the state’s Division of Occupational Safety & Health. The fine issued Wednesday  is the largest in Cal/OSHA history and the highest allowed by state law, according to Ellen Widess, Cal/OSHA chief.

The fine stems from 25 citations over the August fire that broke out at the refinery on the northeast rim of San Francisco Bay after a severely corroded pipe began leaking. Managers did not shut down the unit but instructed workers to remove insulation, which led to the pipe’s rupture and a massive fire, according to Cal/OSHA.

There were no serious injuries but roughly 15,000 area residents sought treatment after breathing the emissions.

Chevron has said it has paid $10 million in claims to people who sought compensation for breathing-related injuries.

Cal/OSHA launched an investigation into the fire and leak repair operations. It found that Chevron did not follow the recommendations back in 2002 of its own inspectors and scientists to replace the corroded pipe. The report also found that the company did not follow its own emergency shutdown procedures after it found the leak.

“It is Chevron’s responsibility to ensure the safety of its operations,” said Widess. “This case demonstrates the risks that occur when a refinery does not follow its own safety maintenance program,” she said.

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