Chevron Refinery under Criminal Investigation for Routing Pollution around Monitoring Equipment

Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Chevron fire in Richmond, California

A Chevron refinery in the San Francisco Bay Area is under criminal investigation for piping pollutants around monitoring equipment and burning off toxic gases without keeping record of how much was released into the atmosphere.


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been probing the refinery in Richmond since March to determine who at Chevron knew about the illegal routing of hydrocarbons.


The EPA, however, was not the first to discover the alleged criminal activity; local inspectors reportedly uncovered the unauthorized routing two years earlier. Chevron was forced to install monitoring equipment as a result of a 2005 settlement with EPA, but Bay Area enforcement inspectors became suspicious in August 2009 when they saw steam coming from a refinery unit that converts oil into gasoline and jet fuel. When they examined the monitoring equipment they discovered that Chevron had installed 100 feet of piping that diverted gases around the equipment and into the air.


Among the hydrocarbon gases involved in the controversy is sulfur dioxide, which can harm the respiratory system if inhaled.


The Richmond refinery was in the news last month after a series of explosions destroyed part of the facility on August 6. No connection has been made between the accident and the illegal routing up to this point, but it did lead to public revelation of the pollution investigation when the San Francisco Chronicle obtained air-quality records through a Public Records Act request.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky


To Learn More:

Chevron’s Richmond Refinery Piped around Pollution Monitors (by Ken Broder, AllGov)

Criminal Investigation At Chevron Refinery (by Jaxon Van Derbeken, San Francisco Chronicle)

Fire at Chevron Refinery in Richmond (by Justin Berton, Kevin Fagan and Vivian Ho, San Francisco Chronicle)

Chevron Pays $350 Fine after Oil Worker Boiled to Death (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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