East Bay News

EPA launches criminal investigation of Chevron

Sunday, September 23, 2012
Chevron refinery fire in Richmond.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is conducting a criminal investigation of Chevron. This, after learning the company was burning pollutants into the atmosphere illegally. The EPA's probe follows a similar investigation done by a local agency.

In 2009 inspectors with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District discovered a pipe inside the Chevron refinery in Richmond was routing hydrocarbon gases around equipment meant to monitor them -- criminal act.

"With what Chevron did, it was not possible to actually measure how much emission occurred during the flaring, and that's serious," Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia said.

The district's investigation found the refinery used the pipe bypass 27 times between 2005 and 2009. Chevron corrected the bypass and paid $170,000 in fines.

Now the EPA is launching its own investigation to determine whether the bypass was used to deceive air pollution regulators.

"It comes at a time, frankly, in the wake of the fire, where it affects the credibility of the refinery," Gioia said.

Chevron issued a statement Sunday in response to this issue. It reads, in part, "We are currently cooperating with the government's investigation. Protecting people and the environment are core values at Chevron. We have invested millions of dollars to upgrade, improve, and monitor our equipment... Developed a program to identify and reduce the volume of gas to the flare gas system... Implemented a robust planning process to reduce flaring," said Sean Comey, External Communications Advisor Chevron Corporation.

But neighbors of the refinery in Richmond say that's not enough, "I just don't like deception," said resident Steve Hurst. "I think Chevron is kinda like caught in-between trying to make money, trying to satisfy community and try to make as much money as possible, but they may be skirting issues."

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