Quantcast

Chevron Refinery Explosion Fires up Local Residents

Energy

Oil Change International

By Andy Rowell

Smoke from the Chevron refinery explosion spreads across the bay. Photo by Drew Dellinger, a bay area resident.

The fire that engulfed Chevron’s refinery late on Aug. 6 in Richmond, California may now be extinguished, but worrying questions remain about the company’s ongoing safety record at the refinery.

The fire caused a huge toxic black cloud to sweep over the city and other parts of the San Francisco Bay area.

In the direct aftermath of the accident, nearly 1,000 people went to medical centers complaining of dizziness, eye irritation, shortness of breath and other breathing problems.

More than 130,000 residents were told to stay indoors with their windows closed.

And once again there is huge anger from the local community, of which more than 80 percent of residents are African Americans, who live with in the dangerous shadow of the refinery, which has had a long history of accidents and explosions.

On Aug. 7 that resentment and anger bubbled over as 500 residents crowded into a local hall for a meeting with the oil giant. Locals held signs that read “How many more ‘accidents’?” and “Chevron out of Richmond.”

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the most often asked question at the meeting by local residents was “What are we breathing?”

However, they were getting few answers from either the company or local health officials. When Chevron refinery General Manager Nigel Hearne spoke, he was greeted with boos and catcalls of “liar!” He had to be escorted out of the hall by police.

One person who attended the meeting was local truck driver Greg McClain: “This stuff with Chevron has been going on as long as I remember,” he said. “Chevron never seems to get the message.”

Another person was General Haymon, who said there were years of frustration and accumulated anger against Chevron. “The more people who show up and the rowdier they are helps get the message across this cannot happen again,” Haymon said. “I don’t care how rowdy people get, these guys have got to get the message.”

The city’s mayor, Gayle McLaughlin, was also highly critical of Chevron. “The community of Richmond has borne the brunt of this major oil refinery,” she said. “We have borne the health impacts, borne the impact on our city’s image, and what they have given us is not nearly enough to compensate.”

Chevron, which has repeatedly apologized for the accident, is now facing questions as to what it did between the discovery of the small leak of oil, which was around 4:15 p.m. local time on Aug. 6, and 6:30 p.m., when the refinery unit ignited into a huge ball of fire and smoke.

Local union officials have said that Chevron should have acted immediately to shut down the crude unit. “From the time they did see the leak, they debated what to do,” Kim Nibarger, a refinery safety expert for the United Steelworkers union, who represents workers at the plant told the San Francisco Chronicle. “It was not so much whether to fix the leak, it was about what could they do to keep the line running and get it fixed.”

Chevron is not alone in having problems with its refinery. Data shows that for the last five years the number of refinery accidents in the U.S. has not improved.

Visit EcoWatch's ENERGY and AIR pages for more related news on this topic.

 

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Smog over Los Angeles. Westend61 / Getty Images

After four decades of improving air quality, the U.S. has started to take a step backwards, as the number of polluted days has ticked upwards over the last two years, the Associated Press reported.

Read More Show Less
Photobos / iStock / Getty Images

Governors in Vermont and Maine signed bills on Monday that will ban plastic bags in their states next year, The Hill reported.

The Maine ban will go into effect next Earth Day, April 22, 2020. The Vermont ban, which extends beyond plastic bags and is the most comprehensive plastics ban so far, will go into effect in July 2020. The wait time is designed to give businesses time to adjust to the ban.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
picture-alliance / AP Images / D. Goldman

By Daniel Moattar

Eastern Kentucky's hills are interrupted by jarring flats of bare rock: the aftermath of mountaintop removal mining, which uses explosives to destroy and harvest coal-rich peaks.

Read More Show Less
Members of Fossil Free Tompkins march at a parade in Ithaca. Fossil Free Tompkins

By Molly Taft

Lisa Marshall isn't your typical activist. For one thing, she's not into crowds. "I don't really like rallies," Marshall, a mom of three from upstate New York, said. "They're a little stressful — not my favorite thing."

Read More Show Less
An oil drilling site in a residential area of Los Angeles, California on July 16, 2014. Faces of Fracking / Flickr

By Jake Johnson

A comprehensive analysis of nearly 1,500 scientific studies, government reports, and media stories on the consequences of fracking released Wednesday found that the evidence overwhelmingly shows the drilling method poses a profound threat to public health and the climate.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
sonsam / iStock / Getty Images

By Grace Francese

A new Environmental Working Group (EWG) study published in Environmental Research found that nitrate, one of the most common contaminants of drinking water, may cause up to 12,594 cases of cancer per year, but that's not its only danger: It can pose unique health risks to children.

Read More Show Less
Melt water from Everest's Khumbu glacier. Ed Giles / Getty Images

The glaciers of the Himalayas are melting twice as fast as they were in the year 2000, a study published Wednesday in Science Advances found.

Read More Show Less
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler signs his replacement for the Clean Power Plan. Win McNamee / Getty Images

Former coal lobbyist and Trump-appointed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler signed a rule Wednesday that officially replaces the Obama-era Clean Power Plan with a new regulation that Wheeler said could lead to the opening of more coal plants, the Associated Press reported.

Read More Show Less