Calling Chevron Corp.’s risk management at its Richmond, CA, facility a “pervasive failure” the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said it could pursue criminal charges or fines if the company fails to address violations.
The EPA filed a formal notice against Chevron Tuesday finding 62 violations of federal environmental laws after an investigation spurred by the Aug. 6, 2012, fire.
Federal chemical safety investigators found the blaze was the result of a failure of a corroded, 1970s-era pipe that released a massive gas cloud and sent thousands of people to hospitals seeking medical attention.
Chevron spokeswoman Melissa Ritchie said the company is working with the EPA and other agencies to remedy issues identified in investigations by the government and the company.
“In Richmond, a full, comprehensive inspection of the refinery is ongoing,” Ritchie said. “To date, we have inspected thousands of individual piping components and are replacing them as necessary based on the results of these inspections.”
Jared Blumenfeld, the EPA’s regional administrator, said investigators determined Chevron’s culture does not place high enough emphasis on safety. He said the company failed to verify refinery staff was using its own risk management plan.
“The reward system is focused on the number of running hours of the facilities, and how that affected bonuses and performance,” Blumenfeld said. Chevron “needs to impose one where the risk management plan is put into everyone’s job.”
The oil company has pleaded no contest to six charges related to the fire, including failing to correct deficiencies in equipment and failing to require the use of certain equipment to protect employees from potential harm. It agreed to $2 million in fines and restitution.