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For Immediate Release: August 13th, 2012

KPFK Radio LA on Chevron Refinery fire.

Chevron’s Hundred Year Old Richmond Refinery Under Increased Scrutiny After Fire

Listen to this segment | the entire program


Federal investigators looking into last week’s Richmond Refinery fire in Northern California concluded over the weekend that more than a dozen of the plant’s workers could have been killed as they worked on fixing a leaking pipe. The workers were apparently briefly engulfed in a highly flammable gas-oil cloud, leading the investigators to call it “among the most serious U.S. refinery incidents in recent years.”

The multinational oil giant Chevron, which runs the hundred year old Richmond refinery, announced on Friday that it would open a new office in the area to handle the thousand plus fire-related claims from local residents. Many of the claims involve residents who suffered health care costs, property damage, or lost earnings as a result of the fire. Chevron has also opened a hotline for affected residents. The oil giant made the announcement after an angry crowd of hundreds of local residents stormed their City Hall earlier in the week demanding that both Chevron and city officials do more to ensure the safety of their community from future accidents.

The explosions that brought down part of the Richmond refinery released large quantities of toxic substances like sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide into neighboring communities. As a result, hundreds of residents sought medical treatment for a range of ailments from eye irritations to respiratory problems. The fire is the most recent in a string of several fires over the past decades, the latest having occurred in 2007 and which also spread noxious fumes and sent hundreds of residents to seek medical assistance.

In the week since the fire, many have predicted that gas prices in California will be affected. In fact, the average price per gallon jumped from $3.86 on Tuesday to $3.94 on Thursday according to GasBuddy.com. Experts expect gas prices to push beyond the four-dollar mark in the coming days as a result of reduced oil production tied to the damages from the fire.

GUEST: Antonia Juhasz, author of “The Tyranny of Oil: The World’s Most Powerful Industry — and What We Must Do to Stop It.” She is the editor and lead author of three Alternative Annual Reports for Chevron, “The True Cost of Chevron.” http://www.TyrannyofOil.org. She is former director of the Chevron Program at Global Exchange.