Chevron Granted Access to Activists' Private Internet Data! [link]
Chevron has given money to the election campaign of Nat Bates, who is proven to engage in criminal behavior, dubious business practices, and spreads slander and lies about anyone taking part in campaigns against Chevron's willful poisoning (murdering) or Richmond residents...
2013-03-26 post to the facebook page of the "Richmond Progressive Alliance":
In a response to a critical (and arguably argumentative) email from a Richmond resident, Council Member Nat Bates wrote the following hilarious and characteristic statement:
"Dear ------------, Obviously I did not get your vote but of couse, you, RPA and Tom Butt are the exceptional people God anointed to save the world. That kind of thinking and attitude is exactly what I refer to you and your group as plantation politic because you consider yourself superior and masters of the universe and everyone else must be holding to you and your group. Please do not communicate with me again because we have nothing in common other than we both reside in Richmond. [signed] Nat Bates"
Chevron is also destroying the social fabric of Richmond!
2011 message from "Richmond Progressive Alliance":
The Chevron Corporatoin is currently appealing its property tax assessment and trying to get the County to pay them a refund of $150 million dollars at hearings in Martinez. If ordered to pay these refunds, County, City and school districts would have to slash vital health, education and public services and lay off employees.
Chevron, which has long had reduced property taxes thanks to loop holes in Proposition 13, is able to hire a army of expensive lawyers to try to bully the county into accepting a settlement. Community groups, unions, and everyone who cares about justice say it is time to stop the 1% from bleeding the rest of us.
See the resolution passed at Richmond City Council at [www.richmondprogressivealliance.net]
For more information call [510-412-2260]
We are the 99%, Chevron is the 1%!
2013-04-26 "Refinery Status: Chevron's Richmond, Calif., Crude Unit Receiving Crude Oil"
by "Dow Jones Business News" [http://www.nasdaq.com/article/refinery-status-chevrons-richmond-calif-crude-unit-receiving-crude-oil-20130426-00856]:
The following table lists unplanned and planned production outages at U.S. refineries as reported by Dow Jones Newswires. The information is compiled from both official and unofficial refining sources and doesn't purport to be a comprehensive list.
Chevron Corp. ( CVX ) on April 26 said the process of introducing crude oil to the 245,000-barrels-a-day crude unit at its Richmond Refinery in California was underway and other plants were in the process of restarting. A fire on Aug. 6 shut the crude unit and reduced rates at other process units.
2013-04-26 "Chevron restarts crude oil unit at Richmond refinery damaged in August fire"
by George Avalos from "Contra Costa Times" [http://www.mercurynews.com/business/ci_23113169/chevron-reports-profits-6-18-billion-that-top?source=rss]:
RICHMOND -- Chevron has resumed operations at a vital crude oil unit at its Richmond refinery that had been knocked out by a fire, making the disclosure the same day the company posted $6.18 billion in first-quarter profit.
The energy giant has begun feeding petroleum through a crude oil unit crippled by a fire Aug. 6. It disclosed the restart of the unit during a conference call Friday to discuss the quarterly results with analysts.
"Richmond crude unit is just now taking oil feed," Patricia Yarrington, Chevron's chief financial officer, said Friday. "As we progress through the quarter, you should expect that to be back to full operation."
Full operations at the 244,000-barrel-a-day capacity Richmond refinery could resume within days or weeks.
San Ramon-based Chevron on Friday reported that its profit and revenue declined, due primarily to a slump in oil prices. But the now-completed repairs at the Richmond refinery and downtime for planned repairs at Chevron refineries in Mississippi and the Southern California city of El Segundo contributed to the lower profit and revenue in the January-March quarter.
"U.S. refining should be better in the second quarter than in the first quarter," said Brian Youngberg, an analyst with investment firm Edward Jones.
The $6.18 billion, or $3.27 a share, in earnings that Chevron posted topped Wall Street's expectations. Analysts had predicted a per-share profit of $3.05.
Chevron's revenue of $56.8 billion, however, fell short of Wall Street's expectations.
Buoyed by the profit results, shares of Chevron jumped 1.3 percent Friday and closed at $120.04. Compared with the year-ago first quarter, profit fell 4.5 percent and revenue declined 7.8 percent.
"Our consistent financial performance has enabled us to significantly increase the dividend again, and fund major development projects that are the foundation of the company's future growth in production, earnings and cash flows," CEO John Watson said in a prepared release.
Chevron pointed to ongoing progress in exploration, development and production of crude oil and natural gas. That includes construction on the Gorgon and Wheatstone liquefied natural gas projects in Australia, development of key deepwater projects in the Gulf of Mexico on track to start up in 2014, and exploration efforts in Morocco and China. And Chevron recently approved plans for the largest oil and natural gas development project ever in Congo.
"The outlook is very strong for Chevron earnings growth," Youngberg said. "Starting in 2014 and for the rest of the decade, things look very good."
Since the Aug. 6 fire, the Richmond refinery had been operating at about 60 percent capacity until very recently. The factory wasn't processing crude oil and instead was being used to blend gasoline.
Gasoline prices fell in California and in every part of the Bay Area on Friday compared with Thursday, according to the GasBuddy website. The shutdown of crude oil processing at the Richmond refinery had caused gas prices to spike in the days and weeks after the August fire.
"It's a pretty decent environment for refinery operators to make good profits in the United States," said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst with GasBuddy. "It will be good for Chevron to get back to full operations and take advantage of this good climate for refining."
2013-04-05 "Chevron refinery fire tied to lax oversight"
by Jaxon Van Derbeken from "San Francisco Chronicle" [http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Chevron-refinery-fire-tied-to-lax-oversight-4414196.php]:
Federal accident investigators urged a complete overhaul of California's "patchwork" of oil industry regulations Friday at a state legislative hearing into the fire last year at Chevron's Richmond refinery.
"This patchwork system of regulation has serious challenges," said Don Holmstrom, who is leading the investigation for the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, adding that California's ineffective regulatory efforts reflect weaknesses in federal and other state oversight programs.
State Sen. Loni Hancock and Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, both Berkeley Democrats, heard testimony Friday from Holmstrom as well as local and state regulators about the lessons learned from the Aug. 6 fire, which imperiled 20 workers and sent 15,000 seeking treatment for breathing problems and other ailments.
The blaze has been blamed on a heavily corroded pipe that leaked and later ruptured, triggering a massive vapor cloud that caught fire and spewed toxic vapor and black smoke over nearby communities.
Holmstrom called for a "step increase" in oversight in California - with more and better-qualified inspectors exercising "more-thorough and robust" authority.
Standards called lax -
The current system, he said, lacks sufficient reporting requirements and competent monitoring of state refineries. It relies on various agencies to oversee worker safety, air quality and industrial practices that react to events with different goals and responsibilities.
"In the case of the Chevron refinery fire, the reactive system of regulation simply did not work to prevent what was ultimately a preventable accident," he said. "The whole system needs improvement."
Cal/OSHA, the state worker safety agency most responsible for refinery oversight, spent a total of only about 150 hours on three planned inspections at the Richmond plant before the fire. That pales in comparison to stepped-up federal enforcement efforts in other states that averaged 1,000 hours per inspection, said Dan Tillema, the chemical board's investigator of the fire.
Cal/OSHA Chief Ellen Widess acknowledged that her agency is short-staffed, with just seven inspectors to handle the state's 15 refineries and 1,600 hazardous chemical plants. She noted that Chevron's problems were pervasive before the fire.
"The problems really were systemic," she said, adding that so far the company has fixed 15 of the 25 problems identified in citations, despite Chevron having appealed the citations. Under state law, companies do not have to fix problems while a citation appeal is pending.
She said one area still to be dealt with is the raft of makeshift clamps on leaks at the refinery.
Unit restarting -
As a result of extensive review, she said, her agency just gave approval Friday for startup of the crude oil processing unit that was destroyed by the fire. The refinery's crude unit could open as soon as mid-month.
Widess said that new budget cuts called for by the federally imposed sequester could mean a loss of as much as 5 percent of her agency's federal funding.
To help overcome the staff shortage, she said, the state will have to rely on better sharing of information by refineries.
"We really need more timely information and reporting of identified hazards," she said.
Such improvements, she said, would mean that regulators are "not left to depend on disasters and catastrophes to find out" about the kinds of problems that were ignored by Chevron, which she said knew as far back as 2002 about the corrosion danger on the pipe that ultimately failed.
"We're here today because a company was aware of a problem since 2002 and didn't correct it," she said.
2013-03-09 "Grand jury probe of Chevron opens rift; Tactics divide agencies in Chevron probe"
by Jaxon Van Derbeken from "San Francisco Chronicle" [http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Tactics-divide-agencies-in-Chevron-probe-4342652.php]:
A grand jury probe targeting Chevron in last year's Richmond refinery fire has created a rift between the federal agency investigating the incident and environmental regulators seeking possible criminal charges against the oil giant, The Chronicle has learned.
Grand jury proceedings normally are secret unless the panel hands down indictments. But the federal probe into whether Chevron violated laws as a result of the Aug. 6 blaze has come to light because the U.S. attorney in San Francisco and the Environmental Protection Agency want to compel the lead investigator for a federal fact-finding agency to testify - and the agency is resisting.
Chevron already faces almost $1 million in potential civil penalties for allegedly violating state workplace safety rules as a result of the fire, which spewed toxic gas and smoke into the air around the plant and sent 15,000 people to hospitals seeking medical attention. Federal indictments could expose the company to millions of dollars more in penalties and even raise the possibility of prison time for company officials.
The U.S. Chemical Safety Board, the lead fact-finding agency looking into the fire, is evaluating what went wrong. But its role is purely investigative - it cannot bring criminal charges. The agency has already said Chevron failed to follow its own standards when it decided not to replace a corroded pipe several months before the line sprang a leak and started the fire, but the board has not issued a final report.
Fighting in court -
The Environmental Protection Agency, which can bring charges against Chevron, is demanding that the Chemical Safety Board's lead investigator turn over notes, interview transcripts and any other documents he has gathered in his six-month probe to the recently convened grand jury. Last month, the investigator's lawyer went before U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco to fight the subpoena.
The head of the safety board says compelling a fact-finding investigator to turn over his findings to a grand jury would have a chilling effect on the agency's future probes.
"Our technically and scientifically oriented investigative interviews do not lend themselves to the discovery of information relevant to criminal charges," safety board Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso wrote to the environmental agency's acting director last month.
"Most witnesses agree to appear voluntarily before (Chemical Safety Board) investigators, in the hope that accidents will be prevented and tragic deaths avoided," Moure-Eraso wrote. "These witnesses do not participate with the thought that there will be a direct pipeline conveying their statements ... into the hands of a grand jury for purposes of criminal enforcement or a criminal fishing expedition."
Richmond report -
Moure-Eraso warned that complying with the subpoena "may seriously delay" the planned March 20 release of the board's interim report on the Richmond fire, and "may permanently impair our ability to collect additional witness interviews needed for the Chevron final report and for other future investigations."
Any hindrance, he said, would "very poorly serve the community in Richmond ... which has every right to demand prompt answers about why the accident occurred at Chevron and what can be done to prevent anything similar from happening again."
Breyer has yet to rule on the request that he quash the subpoena for notes and testimony from the safety board's lead investigator on the Chevron case, Dan Tillema. Neither Tillema nor his lawyer would comment for this story. The board itself, being a federal agency, was not represented in the court fight against another federal agency's subpoena.
Moure-Eraso would not comment on his Feb. 15 letter, which The Chronicle obtained from congressional sources who asked not to be identified.
Environmental Protection Agency officials would not confirm they were seeking Tillema's notes or even that there is a grand jury investigation. Kelly Zito, a spokeswoman for the agency in San Francisco, says the EPA has a standing policy of not commenting about any of its cases.
Refineries' obligations -
Chevron spokesman Sean Comey said the company was not aware of any grand jury probe of the Richmond fire.
Under the federal Clean Air Act, the environmental agency can seek criminal or civil penalties if oil companies violate federal rules requiring them to identify potential leak or fire hazards at their refineries and work to eliminate them. Under the rules, refineries must develop process hazard analyses to account for the risks.
R. Maqbool Qadir of Dublin, an expert in industrial process safety management, said companies have a "general duty" under the law to keep the community safe and guard against accidents and releases of toxic substances.
In the case of criminal charges, prosecutors must show that a company knowingly acted in a way that violated the environmental law, said San Francisco attorney Davina Pujari, a former federal and state prosecutor who specialized in environmental crimes.
"In the case of a corporation being prosecuted, they have been assessed big fines," Pujari said - citing a 2005 refinery explosion in Texas for which the oil company BP was fined $50 million.
Board sees no crime -
Regulators with the state workplace-safety agency, Cal/OSHA, found that Chevron had failed to account for the risk of a corrosion leak at its Richmond refinery, pointing to a possible avenue for a criminal case.
However, Moure-Eraso said in his letter to EPA acting Director Bob Perciasepe that Chevron didn't appear to be guilty of a crime.
A little over a month after the fire, Moure-Eraso wrote, Tillema and another Chemical Safety Board investigator met with a criminal investigator for the environmental agency, Scot Adair. The two told Adair that "they had observed no criminal activity or behavior associated with the August 2012 fire," Moure-Eraso wrote.
This is the second criminal investigation that the EPA has launched against Chevron. In September, The Chronicle reported that the agency had opened a probe after discovering that the company detoured pollutants around monitoring equipment at its Richmond refinery for four years and burned them off into the atmosphere, in possible violation of a federal court order. Chevron has said it did not intentionally bypass the monitoring equipment.
The status of that investigation is unclear.
Falling down on job?
Moure-Eraso made little effort in his letter to disguise his disdain for the EPA, saying the agency is relying on criminal investigations rather than proactively enforcing laws designed to keep accidents from happening.
"The increasing focus on criminal prosecution of accidents comes in an era when no significant changes or improvements are being made to EPA and (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) safety rules and programs for hazardous refineries and chemical plants," he wrote. "Post-accident prosecution does little to mitigate the harm to a community."
A union representative for Chevron refinery workers echoed Moure-Eraso's concerns about turning over the safety board's findings to a criminal grand jury.
"I'm concerned that our people were interviewed with certain expectations," said Mike Smith, business representative for the United Steelworkers Local 5, "that the interviews would be used to improve safety.
"I don't think anybody thought that what they said (to the chemical board) would end up in a criminal investigation," Smith said. He added that he had not seen Moure-Eraso's letter.
"We don't know what the outcome will be," Smith said, "but this could only add to the anxiety of people being interviewed."
Ex-EPA official happy -
But a veteran EPA investigator welcomed the action by the people he once supervised.
"This is very exciting - they have finally found a way to crack the Clean Air Act," said Scott West, a retired special agent in charge for the EPA criminal investigation division who now works for the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society marine wildlife advocacy group. "It is normally very hard to prosecute."
West said he doubted that prosecutors were relying on the Chemical Safety Board investigator's secondhand accounts alone, as they would amount to hearsay. But they could be used to verify other witnesses' testimony, he said.
"I can see that (the safety board's) argument. I can also see the frustration for the criminal investigators," West said. "Maybe someone has circled the wagons."
Summoning of a safety board investigator to testify is "a very unusual step - to put another government agency in the grand jury. It is not taken lightly, not moved upon lightly," West said. "The way I see it, they are trying to protect truth here."
2013-03-07 "Ca-OSHA Needs To Take Criminal Action Against Richmond Chevron Refinery Bosses; Cal-OSHA Mandated to take effective criminal action to immediately remediate the Richmond refinery multiple safety hazards "
by Dr. Larry Rose for "United Public Workers For Action UPWA" [http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2013/03/07/18733252.php]:
Larry Rose is M.D., M.P.H., Occupational/Environmental Medicine, and retired as the Chief of the Cal-OSHA Medical Unit [larryrosemd(at)sbcglobal.net]
Ca-OSHA refuses to take criminal action against the bosses and executives at the Chevron refinery despite the numerous injuries and the criminal violation of the law. Former Ca-OSHA director of the medical program Dr. Larry Rose shows how Chevron has violated the law and the criminal prosecution that Ca-OSHA could take but refuses to.
A dramatic informative community meeting occurred in Richmond on February 27,2013 that focused on the causes and prevention of the catastrophic Richmond refinery pipe leak, fire, and explosion and the immediate health effects as well as the health effects of previous ongoing exposures.This particular explosion/fire was a tragic event that was based on Chevron's management deception and malfeasance.
The meeting's participating labor and environmental groups were: The Blue Green Alliance, The Steelworker's Union, The Labor Occupational Health Program at U.C. Berkley CA., The Natural Resources Defense Council, Communities for a Better Environment, and the Asian Pacific Environmental Network. This collaborative will soon be named The Collaborative on Refinery Safety and Community Health.The information that emerged from the meeting documented the disregard that management of this refinery showed for the health and safety of the plant employees and the surrounding communities.
The Cal-OSHA investigation and penalties -
The Cal-OSHA compliance inspection's final report was announced on January 30, 2013, six months after the event, stating that Chevron did not follow the recommendations of its own inspectors and metallurgical scientists to replace the corroded pipe that ruptured and caused the fire.Those pipe replacement recommendations dated back to 2002.
The initial leak caused a pressurized spewing out of a hot gaseous fume mist cloud that went on for two hours and employees were ordered to repair the pipe by removing the insulation and were not wearing adequate personal protection or respirators (a self contained air supplied breathing respirator).
The gaseous cloud ignited forming a black mushrooming cloud that spread over 5000 feet into the atmosphere. Therefore Chevron did not follow its own emergency shutdown procedures when the leak was discovered and did not protect its employees.
The outcome of the investigation were twenty three violations issued as "serious" and eleven of these were also classified as "willful" because Chevron did not take responsible actions to eliminate the conditions that it knew posed hazards to employees. It was found that Chevron elected to repair over one thousand plant pipe leaks with temporary clamps in this refinery rather than replacing these corroding pipes, and in some cases these clamps remained in place for years.
The background as to why Cal-OSHA did not do previous on site systematic inspections at the Richmond refinery despite several spill and fire incidents over the previous years, goes to the extreme understaffing of the agency's statewide enforcement/compliance officers, and the steady moving toward voluntary compliance of state safety standards primarily for the state's large corporations.
If Cal-OSHA had what the International Labor Organization (UN) recommended there would be nine times as many compliance inspectors. Now an approximate total of one hundred and eighty seven functioning inspectors exists for the eighteen million California workers, ( a ratio of one inspector to ninety two thousand workers). If Cal-OSHA had the same ratio of inspectors to workers as Oregon and Washington, two other state OSHA programs, there would be four times the total number of existing statewide inspectors.
This lack of an adequate number of inspectors has in fact profoundly effected the prevention of workplace injuries and illness in California. In addition many large corporations have been granted a "Voluntary Protection Program" status (no programed inspections). A similar status was granted to Chevron that is called a variance that allowed them to do computer "risk based inspections" instead of physical inspections of pipes and tanks.
The health effects of the airborne fire emissions -
Twenty workers inhale the toxic fumes and combustions products from the leaking pipes. Five employees experienced some health effects. Fifteen thousand community residents went to surrounding hospitals with acute health reaction symptoms.
The gaseous releases consisted of volatile organic compounds, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (carcinogens such as benzene, xylene, and toluene), heavy metals, nitrogen oxides, ozone, combustion products, and various sized respiratory particulates.
The immediate acute health reactions are mainly acute conjunctivitis (eye irritation), acute upper and lower pulmonary reactions (severe asthma and coughing) , acute bronchitis, acute sinusitis. The immediate respiratory reactions often lead to a problem called "reactive airway disease syndrome" that occurs when susceptible individuals are exposed to high concentrations of respiratory irritants subsequently become much more reactive to daily ambient airborne respiratory irritants and have more frequent respiratory crisis.
The long term effects of inhaling these emissions are an increased risk for cancer, pulmonary damage, cardiorespiratory problems, immune dysfunction, reproductive and developmental problems, and endocrine disruption.
Therefore the overall health effects, particularly in susceptible segments of the general population, are not just immediate and inconsequential.
Cal-OSHA mandated criminal inspections -
The maximum fine issued by Cal-OSHA to Chevron was about one million dollars. This amounts to chump change for this refinery that turns out thirty four million dollars of product per day. Chevron is legally appealing all of these citations. The appeal process can take up to four years. During this appeal process Chevron does not have to remedy any of the causes of the citations issued that were directly related to the catastrophic explosive August 6, 2013 fire. Whether or not Chevron has proceeded to do an effective remediation to this date is unknown.
Under Article 10, section 344.51 "Criminal Investigations", it is stated "the central function of the Bureau of Investigations, within the Division of Occupational Safety and Health is to conduct criminal investigations. The Bureau must investigate accidents involving violations of a standard order, or section 25910 of the Health and Safety Code in which there is a serious injury to five or more employees, death, or request for prosecution by a division representative.
The Bureau most analyze the circumstances surrounding the violation to determine whether the conduct is sufficiently aggravated to fall within the scope of Labor Code sections 6423,6425, and other penal statutes. NOTE: Authority cited: sections 6308, 6314, 6315, Kabir Code. Reference: section 6315 and 6314 CALIFORNIA LABOR CODE.
Conclusion and Comment -
In this instance, Chevron has demonstrated extreme corporate irresponsibility regarding the health and safety of it employees and the community members. During the two to four year period of Chevron's legal appeal of the serious, and willful serious Cal-OSHA citations, they are not required to remediate any of the many multiple hazardous defects in their process safety health and safety plant managed program.
The only way these multiple safety hazards will be immediately fixed will be if criminal charges are brought by Cal-OSHA against the responsible upper management individuals, and through a legally binding agreement based in the courts criminal findings management will be ordered to immediately remediate all of the serious hazards that could cause future similar plant process failures.
Chapter 3.2. California Occupational Safety and Health Regulations (CAL/OSHA)
Subchapter 2. Regulations of the Division of Occupational Safety and Health
Article 10. Civil and Criminal Enforcement Policy of the Division of Occupational Safety and Health
§344.51. Criminal Investigations.
The central function of the Bureau of Investigations, within the Division of Occupational Safety and Health, is to conduct criminal investigations. The Bureau must investigate accidents involving violations of a standard, order, or special order, or section 25910 of the Health and Safety Code in which there is a serious injury to five or more employees, death, or request for prosecution by a Division representative. The Bureau of Investigations is the only entity within the Division, which is empowered to conduct criminal investigations and to refer the results of such investigations when appropriate to a city attorney or district attorney for necessary action. The Bureau must analyze the circumstances surrounding the violation to determine whether the conduct is sufficiently aggravated to fall within the scope of Labor Code sections 6423, 6425 and other penal statutes.
NOTE: Authority cited: Sections 6308, 6314 and 6315, Labor Code. Reference: Sections 6315 and 6314, Labor Code.
2013-03-02 "Criminal Prosecution Demanded Against Chevron Refinery Bosses/Executives At Richmond Labor Community Meeting"
by "Labor Video Project" [http://www.laborvideo.org] [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoovEsa3f5A]:
At a labor community meeting in Richmond, California on February 27, 2013 speakers from the community and labor discussed the refusal of Chevron managers to prevent continued accidents and toxic releases. USW 5 which represents the refinery workers made a report on their efforts to get stronger health and safety protections. Also former Ca-OSHA Medical Director Dr. Larry Rose also reported the Ca-Osha and the California Department of Industrial Relations has refused to file criminal charges for the criminally negligent actions by Chevron management. A representative of the DIR argued that they could not do that and only take civil action. People from the community reported on the continuing health and safety problems and serious illnesses including cancer caused by the Chevron contamination over decades.
The community spoke out about the continuous contamination and the ongoing health and safety problems.
2013-03-05 "Chevron super PAC donation spurs complaint, contribution was 'pay-to-play,' critics say"
by David R. Baker from "San Francisco Chronicle" [http://www.sfgate.com/business/article/Chevron-super-PAC-donation-spurs-complaint-4331234.php]:
Chevron Corp. may have broken a law against government contractors' giving money to political campaigns by contributing $2.5 million to a Republican super PAC last fall, according to a complaint filed Tuesday with the Federal Election Commission.
The complaint, from a government watchdog group and several environmental organizations, argues that Chevron's donation violated a 73-year-old "pay-to-play" law that bars federal contractors from contributing to political candidates, committees or campaigns. Oil company Chevron, based in San Ramon, had $501 million in sales to the federal government in the last fiscal year.
The Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision, which opened the door to increased corporate spending on politics, did not overturn the pay-to-play law, said the author of Tuesday's complaint against Chevron.
"There is a long, long, sordid history of government contractors' essentially trying to bribe people with authority over contracts," said Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for the Public Citizen watchdog group.
"As long as you have a federal government contract, you're prohibited from making a federal contribution."
Chevron's donation supplied roughly 22 percent of the money raised by the super PAC Congressional Leadership Fund for the 2012 election cycle, according to Public Citizen. The fund spent its money on ads attacking Democratic candidates for the House of Representatives.
Chevron argues that the law allows a corporation to make political donations if its federal contracts are held by subsidiaries, not by the parent corporation itself. Courts have upheld that argument in the past, Holman said.
"Chevron does not believe that the federal government contractor ban applies to this specific contribution," said company spokesman Lloyd Avram in an e-mail to The Chronicle.
"The contribution was made by Chevron Corp. The corporation does not conduct business with the federal government. Any such federal contracts are held by Chevron subsidiaries."
The USASpending.gov website, which tracks federal expenditures, shows multiple transactions with Chevron Corp., in addition to many more with subsidiaries such as Chevron U.S.A. The transactions with Chevron Corp. tend to be older and smaller than those with Chevron subsidiaries, although they appear as recently as last year. The bulk of the company's sales to the federal government come through Chevron U.S.A.
Federal documents filed by the Congressional Leadership Fund do not specify whether the donation came from the corporation or one of its subsidiaries. The documents simply list the donor's name as "Chevron" and give as an address a post office box in Concord.
That post office box number appears in numerous state-level campaign finance reports available online, often under slightly different names.
It's the Chevron Corp. address in a 2008 filing in New Mexico. A Texas finance report in 2010 lists it as the address for Chevron Products Co. An Oregon campaign finance report gives it as the address for Chevron Policy, Government & Public Affairs.
Holman filed his complaint against Chevron U.S.A., the subsidiary that appears to hold most of Chevron's government contracts.
"The final determination, obviously, would have to come from an investigation from the FEC to determine if they're the same entities, which I have no doubt that they are," Holman said.
2013-02-13 "Assemblymember Nancy Skinner Statement: Chevron Knew and Failed to Act" [http://www.asmdc.org/members/a15/news-room/press-releases/item/2923-assemblymember-nancy-skinner-statement-chevron-knew-and-failed-to-act]:
Sacramento - Assemblymember Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) issued the following statement regarding the pipe failure at Chevron's Richmond facility that was examined in a technical report released today by the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board in cooperation with Cal/OSHA.
"The Chemical Safety Board has confirmed Cal/OSHA's finding that the pipe at the Chevron refinery was badly corroded, had been for many years, and that Chevron was aware of the condition well before last year's August fire.
Today's finding by the Chemical Safety Board following the citation by Cal/OSHA of willful violations demonstrates once again that Chevron has failed to properly monitor facilities, and that the Richmond refinery fire could have been prevented.
Richmond and the entire East Bay need assurances that our refineries will be operated safely. Monetary penalties alone may not suffice.
Additional actions necessary to ensure accountability and the public's safety will be clear once the investigation by the Chemical Safety Board and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District are fully complete."
Elected in 2008, Assemblymember Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) represents the 15th Assembly District, which includes Hercules, Pinole, El Sobrante, San Pablo, Richmond, El Cerrito, Kensington, Albany, Berkeley, Emeryville, Piedmont and parts of Oakland. Skinner serves as Chair of the Assembly Rules Committee.
CONTACT: Tracie Morales, Communications Director, Assemblymember Nancy Skinner (510) 286-1400; Tracie.Morales@asm.ca.gov
2013-02-16 "Was State Senator Rubio (CA) Auditioning For Job at Chevron?"
by Judy Dugan[http://my.firedoglake.com/consumerwatchdog/2013/02/26/was-sen-rubio-auditioning-for-job-at-chevron/]:
Judy Dugan, former research director for Consumer Watchdog, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to providing an effective voice for taxpayers and consumers in an era when special interests dominate public discourse, government and politics.
The power of the petroleum industry in California may be unparalleled in the states. Its lobbying machine is stupendously successful. For instance, California remains the only significant oil producer that does not tax oil extracted in the state [http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/blog/gov-brown-why-no-oil-tax]. It has very weak–perhaps the weakest–regulation of oil and gas extraction, particularly hydraulic fracturing of deep deposits, known as “fracking.” State environmental laws are under constant attack.
State Sen. Michael Rubio, a Central Valley Democrat elected to his seat in 2010, was in an ideal spot to show whose side he was on in these fights.
Rubio, who resigned from the Senate Feb. 22 to work for Chevron as its chief California lobbyist, was chair of the Senate Environmental Quality Committee, which oversees oil industry environmental issues. In 2011-12, he was a key Democrat on the Senate’s energy committee.
His most recent official action was an inaction: He was scheduled to co-chair his committee’s hearing on fracking with Sen. Fran Pavley. The hearing took place, airing widespread frustration with the weakness and loopholes of current and proposed state regulation of fracking. Rubio, however, was a no-show [http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2013/02/14/18732001.php?show_comments=1].
It’s obvious now that on Feb. 12 he was getting ready to jump ship to Chevron, and likely in no mood to hear citizen fears about water pollution, spoiled land and even fracking-induced earthquakes. But Rubio did, in his short tenure, leave a record that Chevron was surely tracking with admiration.
In hindisght, his biggest moment in the spotlight would have been his months-long campaigning on behalf of a corporate effort to weaken the California Environmental Quality Act [http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/california-politics/2012/08/california-senate-ceqa-environmental-law.html]. The changes would have particularly benefited the oil, energy and property development industries. The proposals didn’t become law, but they’re not dead yet. Rubio will just be working them from the other side of the fence.
In May 2012, Rubio also cast the deciding “no” vote against a bill (SB 1054) by Sen. Pavley that would have merely required oil companies to notify residents and businesses nearby in advance of fracking activities. The bill, vociferously opposed by the Western States Petroleum Assn. and other oil lobbyists, failed. Industry opponents of the bill recognized Rubio for his role in leading the opposition that killed a bill with wide public support [http://www.lunaglushon.com/files/Docs/LAAPL_LEGIS_ALERT_JUNE_2012.pdf].
Rubio also supported, and may have encouraged, the governor’s firing of two state energy regulators in 2011 after oil lobby complaints about their tightening of oversight [http://articles.latimes.com/2012/jan/29/local/la-me-oil-20120129].
(Oil and energy weren’t the only supporters he was courting. Rubio also championed the profits of Blue Cross over the pocketbooks of customers. He withheld his vote in 2011 from a measure that would have allowed the state insurance commissioner to reject health insurance rate increases that could not be justified [http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/ca-legislators’-records-health-insurance-rate-justification-and-accountability]. In the state Legislature, an abstention from voting is effectively a “no” vote, but with no accountability. It’s the coward’s way out. )
Chevron certainly knows what it’s getting with this new top lobbyist.
Rubio stated that he was leaving his elected post two years early to spend more time with his family, including a disabled child. No matter how much that weighed in his decision, the fact remains that his status as a state senator (however briefly) greatly inreased his value to Chevron. His pay will grow by multples. Because there is no law against such a quick trip through the revolving door–from overseeing an industry to lobbying for it–Rubio could be schmoozing his fellow legislators right now, and spreading money to their campaigns. His constituents, meanwhile, are stuck with no representation until a special election that’s perhaps months away.
2013-02-25 "California Senator's move to Chevron sparks ethics uproar"
by Anne C. Mulkern and Debra Kahn contributed from "E&E News - Greenwire" [http://www.eenews.net/public/Greenwire/2013/02/25/1]:
A California senator's decision to quit and jump to Chevron Corp. has sparked questions about whether he should have negotiated for that job while in a position to help the company politically.
Former Sen. Michael Rubio (D) resigned Friday to work as manager of California governmental affairs for Chevron (E&ENews PM, Feb. 22 [http://www.eenews.net/eenewspm/2013/02/22/archive/1]). He had been chairman of the state Senate's Environmental Quality Committee when he accepted the oil company position.
"There are potential conflicts of interests in his actions as a senator and chair of the Environmental Quality Committee while he was also being recruited for this job in the corporate world," said Phillip Ung, spokesman for California Common Cause, a watchdog group.
"When did these job negotiations [with Chevron] begin, and did he recuse himself from decisions that involved issues that may have affected his potential employer?" Ung added.
Rubio and his spokesman didn't respond to several requests for an interview about the job timing and any conflict. Bay Area News Group reporter Steve Harmon wrote Friday on Twitter, "Rubio: contacted Chevron over the holidays, & once a 'contingent' offer was on the table, decided to resign b4 cmte hearings began to avoid ... appearance of conflct."
"The real conflicts would start with committee hearings, so my deadline to get this done was today," Harmon quoted Rubio as saying.
Chevron didn't respond to questions on the timing of the job negotiations or requests for comments on the concerns raised by California Common Cause and others.
The conflict of interest question raised by California Common Cause is reminiscent of the charges made by groups in 2005 when then-Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, left his post to become president and CEO of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. Tauzin had headed work on prescription drug legislation in the previous months.
The California Senate, in contrast, has been in recess and there have not yet been hearings or votes in this session. Those are due to start next month. But Rubio in recent weeks had been holding a series of meetings on proposals to amend the California Environmental Quality Act, a landmark protection law (see related story [http://www.eenews.net/gw/2013/2/25/archive/2]).
He had been talking with those wanting changes in the law and conferring with Senate leadership on principles that should be in legislation on CEQA. In an interview with Greenwire in January, Rubio said that he and Democratic leaders were discussing "areas [in the law] that have been abused that we can work on" (Greenwire, Jan. 23 [http://www.eenews.net/Greenwire/2013/01/23/archive/1]).
Ung and others see that as a potential conflict.
"When you're the head strategist for the Democratic Party on environmental quality reform and you're helping build the Democratic Party's bill on environmental quality, and meet partners and discuss things with coalition partners, what part of that is he doing? Is he recusing himself from anything that deals with Chevron?" Ung said.
Rubio dropped his planned bill before announcing his resignation. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D) then introduced placeholder legislation that has basic tenets for changes to CEQA.
Steinberg spokesman Rhys Williams rejected that Rubio did anything improper.
"Senator Rubio, he is a man that's obviously led with principles and priorities," Williams said. "The allegations that Common Cause has said aren't a concern. It's fairly predictable."
Common Cause said that it wasn't accusing Rubio of anything and that there was no evidence of wrongdoing, but that the issues should be considered.
State law says that a public official cannot "participate in making, or use his or her official position to influence, any governmental decision directly relating to any person with whom he or she is negotiating, or has any arrangement concerning, prospective employment."
The state's Fair Political Practices Commission said that "at this time we have not received a complaint or initiated a pro-active case."
"If someone files a complaint, we review the complaint to see if it contains enough indications of a violation of the Act and, if so, we open an investigation," said Gary Winuk, chief of the FPPC enforcement division. "We also have the ability to proactively open cases off of any information we receive from any source, including newspaper articles, again if we feel there are enough indications of a violation."
California bans elected officials from lobbying for one year after leaving office. Chevron said Rubio won't be lobbying.
"He will have responsibility for advancing the company's interests in California state politics and public policy, supervising a team of legislative and regulatory analysts and advocates in Sacramento," Chevron said in a statement.
There are questions about whether Rubio will indirectly be helping Chevron with its lobbying, Ung and others said.
"Chevron is saying he is not doing any lobbying directly, but is he managing lobbyists?" Ung said. "Is he putting together political strategy? Is he bringing his cellphone and all the telephone numbers he's collected over time and the contacts that he's made? Is he bringing that to Chevron so they'll have a whole set of resources at their advantage?"
Chevron is one of the most active companies on advocacy in the state. Last year, it ranked sixth for total influence spending, with $5.7 million.
Ethan Elkind, a climate research fellow at the University of California, said that when someone is the head of government affairs, "they set policy."
"Maybe he's not going to get lobbying license and walk the halls" of the Legislature, Elkind said. "Every time I've seen someone as director of government affairs, they're essentially lobbying. He's got his relationships with the folks in Sacramento. I assume that's why [Chevron] wanted to hire him."
Rubio's new position would give Chevron major advantages, said Martha Arguello, executive director of Physicians for Social Responsibility. Rubio is seen as very charismatic, intelligent and influential, she and others said.
"It does make us nervous about our ability to protect public health when very powerful people end up working for very powerful companies that are bound and determined not to address issues of climate change," Arguello said. "Chevron's been very clear that it wants to dismantle [climate law] A.B. 32."
Hiring Rubio, she said, "is a very smart tactic on their part, to stand in the way of the low-carbon fuel standard, to stand in the way of many of the measures that are part of A.B. 32, that we hope will improve air quality."
Chevron has also supported Rubio politically. It gave $7,800 to his campaign in 2010, according to Maplight. Oil and gas companies combined contributed $42,600, which includes that money from Chevron. Rubio's biggest source of money when running for office, however, was labor groups, which gave $150,300.
Supermajority gone -
Rubio's departure also eliminates the supermajority Democrats had in the Senate. They had enjoyed a two-thirds margin, but there are now 26 Democrats in the 40-seat chamber. Three seats are vacant.
Democrats still have 55 of 80 Assembly seats and the governor's office.
Steinberg spokesman Williams said that a March 12 special election for two of those vacancies -- the seats held by Gloria Negrete McLeod of Los Angeles and Juan Vargas of San Diego -- could restore the supermajority.
The ballot is a primary, but a Democrat should win a majority of votes in the district previously held by Vargas, Williams said.
Williams also said Democrats don't see a need for a supermajority right now.
Steinberg has envisioned this year as a time for planning and strategic thinking, Williams said, about measures that would be put on the 2014 ballot. Those include constitutional changes that would lower the needed vote passage amount on certain tax measures from two-thirds to 55 percent, he said.
Even if Democrats had a majority of just one seat, he said, "it doesn't change the strategy of caucus." California's legislative sessions are two years.
Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California, said Democrats should be able to recapture Rubio's seat, the state Senate's 16th District. It includes all of Kings County and parts of Fresno, Tulare and Kern counties.
Republicans in last year's election made up 46 percent of registered voters there, while Democrats made up 30 percent. An additional 19 percent of voters in the district didn't declare a political party, and 4 percent were independents. It is seen as a conservative district.
"There's no way to know for sure until it's clear who the candidates are, but you'd probably consider a Democrat favored to hold a seat," Schnur said.
The larger concern for Democrats than Rubio's seat or the supermajority, he said, is filling Rubio's leadership role on issues like CEQA. Rubio also was vocal on hydraulic fracturing and the state's green chemistry rules, which would identify about 1,200 substances as "chemicals of concern."
"The biggest impact of Rubio leaving is not a question of partisan balance in the Senate but rather how to fill his key role as the key player in the discussion over regulatory reform and energy policy," Schnur said.
2013-03-07 "Chevron refinery safety under microscope"
by Jaxon Van Derbeken from "San Francisco Chronicle" [http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Chevron-refinery-safety-under-microscope-4337384.php]:
California's workplace-safety agency has spent the equivalent of one-fifth of its entire annual budget investigating last year's Chevron Richmond refinery fire, a top state official testified Thursday during a hearing at which a lawmaker suggested the state needed to strengthen its regulatory efforts.
Under questioning in Sacramento by Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, state Department of Industrial Relations head Christine Baker said Cal/OSHA has dedicated more than 4,000 hours to determining whether Chevron violated safety regulations in connection with the Aug. 6 fire.
"Wow, 4,000 staff hours?" Hancock said. "Do you know what percentage of your yearly budget that would be?"
"It took approximately 21 percent of our yearly budget," Baker replied.
Cal/OSHA has slapped Chevron with 25 citations, most of them serious, for allegedly violating safety rules and is seeking nearly $1 million in penalties. Chevron is appealing the fines.
Hancock, whose district includes the Richmond refinery, said the resources that the state is pouring into the Chevron probe suggest that Cal/OSHA is shorthanded. The agency's staffing is one area being looked at by a task force that Gov. Jerry Brown created after the Richmond fire to evaluate refinery safety in California.
Baker, whose department oversees Cal/OSHA and who is a member of the task force, said, "We have identified gaps" in the state's regulatory efforts.
Cal/OSHA has 164 inspectors, only seven of whom are assigned to refineries and chemical plants. That amounts to one inspector per 115,000 workers.
Worker-safety advocates said California ranks last in staffing levels among the 25 states with their own agencies charged with enforcing federal safety rules.
After-the-fact probes -
California regulators have focused on responding to accidents and worker complaints at the state's 15 refineries rather than conducting planned inspections.
The Chronicle has reported that in the past decade, those planned inspections consisted of an average of 50 staff hours of checks and resulted in no fines against major oil companies. Of the three planned inspections of Chevron before the August fire, one did not involve an actual visit to the plant. They also averaged 50 staff hours.
In contrast, a national inspection effort that began after a Texas refinery explosion killed 15 workers in 2005 entailed about 1,000 staff hours apiece and resulted in an average of 11 citations against violators. California declined to take part in that effort.
Hancock noted the disparities during her questioning of Baker.
"That says to me we really need to look at our safety standards," Hancock said. "People can die and communities can be severely degraded" during refinery fires.
Regulatory 'gaps' -
Baker deferred answering a number of staffing and inspection questions, but acknowledged that staffing was one of the "gaps in our regulations."
Hancock asked whether state investigators might have discovered the alleged workplace-safety violations found at the Richmond refinery after the fire had they done a "wall-to-wall" inspection beforehand.
"It is unknown," Baker said. "The burden really shifts to Chevron in terms of providing us with information that's necessary to identify where there are problem areas - they have that information. The inspectors look, superficially many times, and can't possibly identify every corroded piece of equipment. We really need to rely on information that is being tracked by Chevron itself."
"So it's essentially self-reporting?" Hancock asked.
"Some self-reporting together with expertise of our teams," Baker replied.
Hancock pointed out that Chevron engineers had determined years ago that the Richmond refinery's lines were at risk of corrosion from sulfur-heavy oil, but that refinery managers had decided not to replace some of them. One such corroded line finally sprang a leak Aug. 6, starting the fire.
No workers were seriously injured in the blaze, but 15,000 residents went to hospitals complaining of respiratory and other problems caused by a cloud of toxic gas and smoke.
Baker said her agency is considering ways to get refineries to share more information about their operations with regulators. "We've identified this as a problem," she said.
The goal of the governor's task force, Baker said, is to learn how to prevent another calamity like the Richmond fire.
"I would appreciate that very much," Hancock said, "because sometimes it takes a problem like to this to really look at our systems to see if they are adequate."
2013-02-13 "Chevron fined for “willful violations” in California refinery fire"
by Henry Allan from "World Socialist Web Site" [http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2013/02/13/chev-f13.html]:
Chevron, the second largest oil and energy company in the United States, was fined $963,200 by Cal/OSHA (the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health) for state safety standard violations related to the August 6, 2012, fire at its Richmond, California, refinery.
The proposed penalties issued were the result of 25 citations for the violation of state safety standards. “Our investigators found willful violations in Chevron’s response before, during and after the fire,” reported Cal/OSHA chief Ellen Widess.
Of the 25 citations, 23 were classified as “serious” due to the grave danger posed to workers. Cal/OSHA found that Chevron did not take reasonable actions to eliminate refinery conditions that it knew posed hazards to employees, and because it intentionally and knowingly failed to comply with state safety standards.
“Ensuring worker safety is the employer’s responsibility,” said Christine Baker, Department of Industrial Relations director, who oversees Cal/OSHA.
According to Cal/OSHA, its investigators found:
* Chevron did not follow the 2002 recommendations of its own experts—inspectors and metallurgical scientists—to replace the corroded pipe that ruptured and caused the fire in August 2012;
* Chevron did not recognize the potential for a catastrophic release of ignitable diesel fuel from the leaking pipe, and ordered contractor workers to erect a scaffold at the leak site;
* Chevron did not follow its own emergency shutdown procedures for the affected Crude Unit. Instead, managers exposed workers to harm by directing them to remove the pipe’s insulation;
* Chevron allowed workers to enter the hazardous zone without proper personal protective equipment;
* Chevron had pervasive violations in its leak repair procedures throughout the refinery. Cal/OSHA inspectors identified leaks in pipes that Chevron had clamped as a temporary fix. In some cases, the clamps remained in place for years, rather than being replaced.
In addition, investigators found that there were violations in Chevron’s overall implementation of its own “process safety management” (PSM) procedures, which all refineries must meet under Cal/OSHA rules.
PSM regulations, according to Cal/OSHA, require refineries to implement a comprehensive safety plan that includes a precise determination of what hazards exist and procedures to follow to eliminate or reduce them. Employers are required to ensure that machinery and equipment are in good condition, that work procedures are safe, that hazards are controlled, and that workers are trained to recognize hazards, safely operate equipment and respond appropriately in emergency situations.
“It is Chevron’s responsibility to ensure the safety of its operations. Having an effective workplace safety culture is essential in preventing these kinds of incidents,” Widess explained. “This case demonstrates the risks that occur when a refinery does not follow its own safety maintenance program.”
Chevron spokesperson Sean Comey said the corporation plans to appeal. “We are in the process of reviewing the citations issued by Cal/OSHA. Chevron takes our commitment to safe operations seriously. Although we acknowledge that we failed to live up to our own expectations in this incident, we do not agree with several of the Cal/OSHA findings and its characterization of some of the alleged violations as ‘willful.’ ”
In fact, Chevron, along with the other oil corporations, has a long history of safety violations and criminal indifference to the impact of its operations on its workers, the public and the environment. Only five years ago, the same crude unit at the same refinery caught fire and burned for 10 hours before finally being shut down for months. In 1999, an explosion and fire sent more than 1,200 people to the hospital for breathing difficulties and eye irritation.
In the latest Richmond refinery fire, more than 15,000 people in the Bay Area reported to hospitals after being exposed to dangerous sulfuric acid and nitrogen dioxide fumes that blew into neighborhoods. Tens of thousands were warned to stay in their homes as gas and black smoke spread.
In June 2010, a Chevron pipeline in Salt Lake City, Utah, broke open, pouring tens of thousands of gallons of crude into a tributary of the Great Salt Lake.
In February 2011, Chevron was found guilty of massive environmental contamination of the Amazon in Ecuador and ordered to pay $9 billion in damages. Chevron admitted that its system of oil extraction in the Ecuadorian Amazon led to the deliberate discharge of approximately 18 billion gallons of chemical-laden “water of formation” into the streams and rivers of the Amazon, home to six indigenous tribes.
Over the course of more than two decades, the company abandoned more than 900 unlined waste pits gouged into the jungle floor. These pits leached toxins into the soil and rivers. The air was contaminated by burning waste pits. The corporation did not attempt to capture harmful gases produced during extraction, but burned them in a process known as “flaring,” thus adding to greenhouse gases. In addition, Chevron dumped oil along roads, spilled millions more crude from ruptured pipelines and ordered its field workers to destroy records of oil spills. Finally, Chevron never conducted a single health evaluation or environmental impact study despite pervasive evidence of the growth of cancers among the indigenous groups.
In 2012, Brazil filed a lawsuit against Chevron for $22 billion, claiming that the oil giant was “not careful” in its operation of offshore oil fields.
The reason for this persistent disregard for the environment and worker safety is not hard to explain. Oil industry profits have soared. From 2001 to 2011, five oil companies—BP, Chevron, Conoco/Phillips, Exxon-Mobile and Shell—made more than a $1 trillion in profits. Despite generating $546 billion in profits between 2005 and 2010, BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil and Shell reduced their domestic workforce by 11,200 employees. These same oil corporations spent more than $67 million dollars “lobbying” Congress.
By comparison, an occasional fine is a drop in the bucket.
2013-01-31 "Cal/OSHA Cites Chevron Nearly $1 Million for Richmond Refinery Fire, Imposes Highest Penalties Allowed Under State Law"
by Erika Monterroza and Peter Melton from "State of California Department of Industrial Relations" [http://www.dir.ca.gov/DIRNews/2013/IR2013-06.html]:
Oakland —The California Division of Occupational Safety & Health (Cal/OSHA) today issued 25 citations against Chevron USA, with proposed penalties totaling nearly $1 million, for state safety standard violations related to the August 6, 2012 fire at Chevron’s Richmond refinery. The citations include eleven “willful serious” and twelve “serious” violations, resulting in the highest penalties in Cal/OSHA’s history.
“Ensuring worker safety is the employer’s responsibility,” said Department of Industrial Relations Director Christine Baker, who oversees Cal/OSHA. “Refineries must take the steps needed to prevent incidents like the August Chevron fire. Failure to do so can pose great dangers to workers, surrounding communities and the environment.”
Cal/OSHA Chief Ellen Widess said the penalties of $963,200 against Chevron are the highest allowed under state law. “Our investigators found willful violations in Chevron’s response before, during and after the fire,” said Widess.
On August 6, 2012, a fire broke out at the refinery when a severely corroded pipe in Chevron’s #4 Crude Unit began leaking. Chevron managers did not shut down the unit but instructed workers to remove insulation, which led to the pipe’s rupture and a massive fire. While there were no serious worker injuries, a reported 15,000 residents of surrounding communities sought treatment after breathing emissions from the fire.
Cal/OSHA immediately launched an investigation into the fire and the leak repair procedures throughout the refinery, and found the following:
* Chevron did not follow the recommendations of its own inspectors and metallurgical scientists to replace the corroded pipe that ultimately ruptured and caused the fire. Those recommendations dated back to 2002.
* Chevron did not follow its own emergency shutdown procedures when the leak was identified, and did not protect its employees and employees of Brand Scaffolding who were working at the leak site.
Twenty-three violations were classified as “serious” due to the realistic possibility of worker injuries and deaths in the fire. Eleven of these serious violations were also classified as “willful” because Cal/OSHA found Chevron did not take reasonable actions to eliminate refinery conditions that it knew posed hazards to employees, and because it intentionally and knowingly failed to comply with state safety standards.
The “willful serious” violations include the following:
* Chevron did not follow its own policies or act on repeated recommendations to replace the corroded pipe that ultimately ruptured;
* Chevron did not test pipe thickness in areas identified as susceptible to corrosion and leaks because of the high temperature and high-sulfur content of the crude oil;
* Chevron did not implement its own emergency procedures to shut down the Crude Unit where the leak occurred, and exposed workers to harm by directing them to remove insulation;
* Chevron did not recognize the potential for a catastrophic release of ignitable diesel fuel from the leaking pipe, and ordered contractor employees to erect a scaffold at the leak site;
* Chevron allowed workers to enter the hazardous incident zone without proper personal protective equipment;
* Chevron had pervasive violations in its leak repair procedures throughout the refinery. Cal/OSHA investigators identified leaks in pipes that Chevron had clamped as a temporary fix. In some cases the clamps remained in place for years, rather than replacing the pipes themselves.
There were also violations in Chevron’s overall implementation of its own “process safety management” (PSM) procedures, required by Cal/OSHA of all refineries. PSM regulations require refineries to implement a comprehensive safety plan that includes a precise determination of what hazards exist and procedures to eliminate or reduce them. Employers must ensure that machinery and equipment are in good condition, that work procedures are safe, that hazards are controlled, and that workers are trained to safely operate the equipment, recognize hazards and respond appropriately in emergency situations.
“It is Chevron’s responsibility to ensure the safety of its operations. Having an effective workplace safety culture is essential in preventing these kinds of incidents,” said Widess. “This case demonstrates the risks that occur when a refinery does not follow its own safety maintenance program.”
Cal/OSHA has ongoing investigations for Chevron at its El Segundo refinery in the Los Angeles area and its oilfield in Lost Hills near Bakersfield.
Copies of the citations issued today against Chevron as well as Brand Scaffolding are posted online [http://www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/citation.html].
Employers who want to learn more about Cal/OSHA, the process safety management and other workplace health and safety standards can access additional information online [http://www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/dosh1.html].
Workers with work-related questions or complaints can call the California Workers’ Information Hotline at (866) 924-9757. Complaints can also be filed confidentially with Cal/OSHA District Offices listed on Cal/OSHA’s website [http://www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/DistrictOffices.htm].
Chevron declares itself free from pollution control requirements
2012-11-11 "Chevron sidesteps call for cleaner tech; Richmond wants refinery to use cleaner technology"
by Jaxon Van Derbeken from "San Francisco Chronicle" [http://www.sfgate.com/science/article/Chevron-sidesteps-call-for-cleaner-tech-4028551.php]:
Chevron will make only small-scale pollution control improvements as it rebuilds the fire-damaged crude oil unit at its Richmond refinery - telling regulators it will not increase production, a decision that allows the company to avoid requirements for new emissions technology.
After an Aug. 6 fire at the refinery produced a black cloud of smoke that sent 15,000 people to hospitals seeking treatment, the Richmond City Council and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District adopted resolutions urging Chevron to use the best pollution control technology available in rebuilding the plant.
Chevron officials, however, told air-quality officials last week that they do not plan to increase production and are simply repairing existing equipment.
"Chevron believes the repairs can proceed without district permits or approvals," company officials said in documents they filed with the air-quality agency. They added, however, that they would do more to filter out air pollution and cut by one-third the number of potentially leaky pipe valves and fittings, steps they said they were not legally forced to take.
"All repairs and replacement equipment and materials will meet or exceed applicable industry standards and codes," refinery General Manager Nigel Hearne wrote.
No huge cuts -
Wayne Kino, director of enforcement for the air-quality district, said the agency doesn't expect dramatic cuts in pollution levels under Chevron's plan. "There is not going to be a huge emission reduction as the result of this new equipment," he said.
Environmentalists say Chevron will continue to use a 35-year-old design of the crude oil unit rather than install better technology - losing a chance to make a significant dent in routine emissions of pollutants into surrounding neighborhoods.
"It's not only unsafe," Greg Karras, senior scientist with the advocacy group Communities for a Better Environment, said of Chevron's refinery repair plan. "It's cheating the public" out of significant pollution reductions.
Minor reductions -
Karras said Chevron's new filtering system would cut only 3 1/2 pounds from a total of 1,240 pounds of particulates the refinery sends into the air each day. The company's plan to reduce the number of valves and other fittings will cut smog-producing pollutants by 5 percent at most, he said.
Chevron is also refusing to update fossil-fuel-driven technology that boils raw oil to nearly 700 degrees in the crude unit, Karras said. Thirty-five years ago, "we did not have the technology we have now, and half that energy was wasted," he said.
New technology provides more efficient ways of heating the raw oil, which could result in greater pollution reductions, Karras said.
"This isn't over yet," he said. "Chevron and public officials should know already that this community is not going to sit back and let them continue to pollute us. We're going to figure out how to fix this problem."
Environmentalists may have little legal recourse, however. Under federal law, a refinery operator has to use the best available pollution control technology - defined as the most advanced equipment in service worldwide - only when it makes large-scale changes or increases production. In practice, refineries have opted to replace damaged equipment rather than push for greater capacity.
Richmond's request -
Chevron notified air quality officials of its rebuilding plans Wednesday, a month after the Richmond City Council unanimously approved a resolution calling on the company to use "the highest standards and best technology" in repairing the crude oil unit. In addition to improved filtering equipment, Chevron said it would use more corrosion-resistant metal after finding that the Aug. 6 fire was caused by a 40-year-old pipe that had badly corroded.
Despite the council's vote, the city Planning Department authorized a permit for Chevron on Oct. 19 allowing it to rebuild as it saw fit, without specifying that the company use the best available technology.
Mayor Gayle McLaughlin said that city staff had no legal grounds for doing otherwise. But she added, "I expected our staff to hold back on permits until we had an understanding of what was being permitted and whether it was the best technology available at reducing emissions.
"Chevron should be offering a whole lot better than the minimum - it seems that is what they are offering," McLaughlin said. "They should be using this opportunity to build much further along in terms of reducing emissions.
"We will take whatever we can get - a minor decrease is still something," McLaughlin added. But "it's nothing compared to what I expected."
Complied with law -
City Manager Bill Lindsay said Richmond granted the permits because Chevron's plans complied with city codes. He said officials rely on the air-quality district to determine whether Chevron's repairs are using the right technology.
Air-quality officials said they were looking at whether Chevron is making the appropriate changes. However, Chevron's reconstruction effort is already under way, and the company has said it hopes to have the refinery operating at full capacity again by as early as January.
Company officials said in a statement that they were "moving forward methodically, diligently and transparently in the repair of the crude unit, and only performing work that has been permitted by the appropriate agencies."
Chevron said the fire damaged less than 20 percent of the crude oil unit, and that repairs will comply with the air-quality district's rules for best available technology.
Contra Costa Supervisor John Gioia, chairman of the district's Board of Directors, said the panel will get an update on the status of Chevron's pollution control measures at a public hearing Nov. 19.
"This sounds like we will achieve a slight reduction of emissions," Gioia said. "I want to ensure that the air district is pushing Chevron as much as possible - beyond what is required - to improve the technology of the rebuild and to reduce emissions."
2012-11-10 "How Many More Explosions and Fires Do We Have To Put Up With?"
Public Forum sponsored by United Public Workers For Action
Saturday, 2:00 - 4:00 PM
Richmond Main Public Library, Madeline Whittlesey Community Room, 325 Civic Center Plaza (next to the Richmond Main Library), Richmond, California
OSHA, Chevron Refinery And Labor--How Can Working People & The Community Defend Our Health, Safety And Environment?
* Dr. Larry Rose, retired Chief Medical Officer of Ca-OSHA
* Charles Smith, AFSCME 444 Delegate To Alameda Labor Council
* Charles Rachlis, State Industrial Hygienist
* Michael Delacour, Boilermakers Local 6 and Refinery Worker
In California there are only 182 Cal-OSHA inspectors for 18 million workers in California and the refinery had not even been inspected in 2012 until the explosion.
Refinery workers who are members of USW have been warning that there are serious health and safety problems in reports that Cal-Osha kept secret. Who is running Cal-OSHA and why are the workers voices being silenced.
United Public Workers For Action UPWA calls for criminal prosecution of Chevron Executives and managers and for public control of the Chevron refinery and the energy industry for the benefit of working people.
United Public Workers For Action [www.upwa.info] [510-233-5820]
2013-04-18 "Oil Firms Break Promise on Biofuels as Chevron Defies California"
by Ben Elgin and Peter Waldman, from "Bloomberg News" [http://www.sfgate.com/business/bloomberg/article/Oil-Firms-Break-Promise-on-Biofuels-as-Chevron-4445642.php]:
Editors: Gary Putka, Anne Reifenberg
April 18 (Bloomberg) -- Chevron Corp. helped write the first-in-the-nation rule ordering reduced carbon emissions from cars and trucks. Its biofuels chief spoke at the ceremony where California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the executive order in 2007, the same year the oil company pledged to develop a gasoline replacement from wood.
Now Chevron is leading a lobbying and public relations campaign to undercut the California mandate aimed at curbing global warming, two years after the state started phasing it in. Research on commercially viable climate-friendly products has come to naught, stymied by the poor economics of coaxing hydrocarbons from plants’ stubborn cell walls, according to Chevron officials.
“We’ve looked at 100 feedstocks, 50 conversion technologies, worked to shape this law the best we can, and we have not come up with a solution to be able to comply,” said Rhonda Zygocki, Chevron’s executive vice president of policy and planning, in a Feb. 4 talk at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. Rick Zalesky, the Chevron official who celebrated the order’s signing with Schwarzenegger, was blunt last June when he declared the low-carbon standard “not achievable.”
While still promoting its commitment to renewable energy, the second largest U.S. oil company quietly shelved most of its biofuels work in 2010, according to internal documents and former Chevron officials. It decided products with potential returns of at least 5 percent weren’t enough for a multinational used to margins triple that, said Paul Bryan, a former vice president of biofuels technology.
Cutting Funding -
“The best outcome for the oil companies is if nothing changes,” said Bryan, who left Chevron in 2010 after 15 years. “You can make money today making advanced biofuels -- you just won’t make as much money as the oil companies would like.”
Chevron’s switch is part of the fossil fuel industry’s hardening line against efforts to supplant petroleum in the $500 billion U.S. transportation fuels market.
ExxonMobil Corp., the largest U.S. oil company, has also retreated from a biofuels effort. It slashed funding for research into making the fuel from algae, according to former employees involved in the project, and with Chevron is pressing California to postpone the low-carbon standard. In Europe, meanwhile, carbon credits for December plunged to an all-time low yesterday, making it cheaper for companies to buy the right to emit more carbon dioxide gas under the European Union’s system for controlling global warming.
‘Shockingly Small’ -
Like other major investor-owned oil companies, Chevron and ExxonMobil accept climate-change science and acknowledge carbon emissions contribute to global warming. They say they’re pushing back against the California rule because it demands technology that may not be available for years, and will cost jobs and send pump prices soaring if not rewritten.
The oil industry is lobbying to stop other states from following California. All the while, oil companies are dedicating few resources to the advances in biofuels they talk about needing to make, said Mary Nichols, head of the California Air Resources Board, which enforces the carbon rule.
“It’s shockingly small given their profitability,” Nichols said. “We’re dealing with companies with revenues in excess of the state of California.”
San Ramon, California-based Chevron had its second most profitable year in 2012, posting net income of $26.2 billion on $222.6 billion in sales, the vast majority from petroleum. California’s revenue in fiscal year 2012 was $87.8 billion.
Doomed Project -
The company touts its biofuels program on its Facebook page and website. “It’s time oil companies get behind the development of renewable energy,” a headline on the website says. The text says a joint venture with Weyerhaeuser Co., Catchlight Energy LLC, is “working to commercialize advanced biofuels made from forest-based biomass.”
While Catchlight still exists, Chevron and the forest products company three years ago scratched a plan to spend more than $400 million and build commercial plants by 2014, according to an internal Catchlight business plan.
The plants were expected to generate a profit of 5 percent to 10 percent, according to Bryan and other former Chevron officials -- short of the average 17 percent the company earns on capital investments, including oil and gas exploration and production, for which it has budgeted $33 billion this year.
The Catchlight plan was doomed when management decreed biofuels had to compete with fossil fuel projects for funds, said Bryan, a lecturer in chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University of California at Berkeley. He said he left Chevron, taking a severance package during a staff downsizing, because he didn’t believe the company was committed to biofuels.
Too Ambitious -
Chevron was optimistic when it worked on the low-carbon fuel standard with Schwarzenegger’s team in 2007, said Desmond King, president of Chevron Technology Ventures, which oversees emerging technologies. Former biofuels chief Zalesky, now the company’s general manager of crude and manufacturing strategy, was among several Chevron officials who helped craft the rule.
As the company put theory into practice, trying to make a propellant out of wood’s sugar-rich fibers, it realized the rule was too ambitious, King said. The research didn’t lead to anything that would be commercially viable, he said.
Even a 10 percent potential profit wasn’t attractive because the average payback from other projects is so much higher, he said. “It’s hard for Chevron to make major investments in anything that would be dilutive to its return,” he said. “It all comes down to getting good enough returns for our shareholders.”
Algae Fuel -
Spending on biofuels has shrunk, he said, declining to give details. A leading producer of geothermal energy, Chevron expects to spend about $2 billion between 2012 and 2014 on renewable energy and energy efficiency, according to Morgan Crinklaw, a company spokesman.
To try to make algae fuel, Irving, Texas-based ExxonMobil said it would spend up to $600 million and hired Synthetic Genomics Inc. in 2009 to identify and modify algal strains that yield high amounts of oils. The oil company promoted the work in ads with a scientist saying, “We’re making a big commitment to finding out just how much algae can help to meet the fuel demands of the world.”
Research hit a snag in 2011 when a strain that made enough oil in a California greenhouse to meet a required milestone in the contract failed to perform in a pond at an ExxonMobil facility in Texas, according to J. Craig Venter, Synthetic Genomics’ chief executive officer and co-founder and one of the first scientists to sequence the human genome.
Long Term -
ExxonMobil recast the contract, leading to layoffs of more than half the Synthetic Genomics employees working on biofuels for the oil company, according to former managers and scientists involved in the project. The effort now focuses on long-term research and development rather than commercial production, said Heather Kowalski, a spokeswoman for La Jolla, California-based Synthetic Genomics.
Charles Engelmann, a spokesman for ExxonMobil, declined to discuss details of the partnership or comment on the company’s opposition to the low-carbon rule’s timeline.
That’s being targeted by Fueling California, an advocacy group whose major funder is Chevron and that spent more than $327,000 in 2011 and 2012 lobbying on fuel and transportation policies, according to state disclosure forms.
The Air Resources Board’s Nichols said regulators haven’t been swayed by the arguments, among them that the economy will suffer if implementation of the rule isn’t delayed. “At this point we’re not seeing any need to change course,” she said.
Corporate Representatives -
Both Chevron and ExxonMobil help finance the Houston-based Consumer Energy Alliance, which runs ad and Web campaigns warning low-carbon mandates could cost hundreds of thousands of jobs. After the alliance lobbied in New Hampshire last year, lawmakers passed a law prohibiting the state from participating in any low-carbon fuel program without legislative approval.
In January, the Washington-based American Legislative Exchange Council, which writes bills it recommends to legislators, endorsed a measure based on the New Hampshire law that it’s urging other states to adopt.
The council is made up of lawmakers and corporate representatives. Company memberships cost from $7,000 to $25,000 annually, and those that belong include ExxonMobil, the coal concern Peabody Energy Corp. and Koch Industries Inc., a chemical, textile, trading and refining conglomerate whose co- owners, Charles and David Koch, have supported the Tea Party.
Front Line -
The council opposes government dictating Americans’ fuel choices, said Todd Wynn, director of the energy, environment and agriculture task force at the group. It also encourages legislators to repeal mandates -- which exist in 29 states -- requiring renewable energy from solar, wind and other sources to be part of the electric power mix.
This year, 30 bills to kill or weaken renewable rules have been considered in 16 states, according to the North Carolina Solar Center in Raleigh, which tracks such measures. None have passed so far.
California, the most populous state, is the front line: Emission controls enacted there since 1966 have been models for federal car-pollution and miles-per-gallon rules.
The state began to phase in the low-carbon standard in 2011. When it’s fully in effect in 2020, greenhouse gas emissions associated with transportation fuels are supposed to be 10 percent less than they were in 2010.
Transportation Mix -
The state’s 32 million vehicles consume 15 billion gallons of gasoline each year, according to state data, and emit 160 million metric tons of greenhouse gases annually, 36 percent of all such emissions in California.
Right now, the state is on track to achieve the goal, according to Stanley Young, a spokesman for the Air Resources Board. Neither the agency nor Chevron and ExxonMobil will disclose how the companies are complying with the rule.
The U.S. government first spurred interest in biofuels, after President George W. Bush signed laws in 2005 and 2007 ordering more non-petroleum ingredients in the fuel supply.
The laws required refiners, importers and blenders to put 16.6 billion gallons of renewables into the mix by 2013. At least 1 billion gallons would have to come from cellulosic biofuels, which, unlike the widely used ethanol supplement derived from corn, are harvested from non-food crops, including switch grass and woody debris.
Fading Appetite -
To meet its obligations, Chevron in 2008 teamed up with Weyerhaeuser to start Catchlight. Its goal was 17 plants by 2029, making 2 billion gallons annually, with spending of $370 million by 2013, according to a Catchlight business plan.
“There was a lot of enthusiasm that we would move forward on a path to develop something significant,” said Denny Hunter, Catchlight’s chief technology officer in 2008 and 2009 and a former vice president of technology for pulp, paper and packaging at Federal Way, Washington-based Weyerhaeuser.
Chevron’s appetite for biofuels began to fade after about a year, according to Hunter, Bryan and other former officials affiliated with Catchlight. A key reason, they said, was the shrinking federal cellulosic biofuels directive.
The laws Bush signed instruct the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to adjust requirements based on supplies, which have never reached the goal. The EPA’s cellulosic biofuels mandate for 2013 is 99 percent below the original target.
‘No Urgency’ -
Chevron’s biofuels plan wound up in the cross-hairs of cost analysts in 2009 when they determined it would be a better bet to buy renewable fuel credits rather than keep trying to make the product, according to Bryan and two other former employees who asked not to be identified because they were discussing confidential company information. Credits, purchased from the government or producers who exceed low-carbon obligations, allow non-reducers to abide by clean fuel regulations.
After the cost analysts’ report, the Catchlight budget was stripped of money for plants, said Hunter, the former chief technologist who said he retired in 2009 because he was unhappy with the joint-venture’s direction. Chevron “no longer wanted to be a leader in biofuels,” he said.
In April 2010, Chevron and Weyerhaeuser told Catchlight to ratchet back, according to an internal business plan that set the 2013 budget at $8.9 million -- 98 percent lower than previously envisioned.
The Catchlight board said in the plan there was “no urgency” to commercialize and that, “in the absence of mandates,” the first plant “should be driven by financial returns.” The return on the investment would have to “meet or exceed” 20 percent, according to the plan.
‘Technical Winner’ -
That shocked scientists who were confident they’d come up with a process that would work, called solvent liquefaction, according to Jim Stevens, a chemist who researched technologies for 29 years at Chevron before being laid off in December 2010.
They’d constructed a contraption the size of a Winnebago that used a chemical solvent to turn woody biomass into fuel. It began producing in February 2010. “This was a real technical winner,” Stevens said.
Catchlight roughed out the numbers for a $504 million solvent liquefaction plant producing 92 million gallons a year at a cost of $2.18 a gallon, according to a 2010 internal report that laid out the technical and economic prospects for producing biofuels on a commercial scale. Making gasoline costs between $2 a gallon and $2.75 a gallon when oil prices are $70 a barrel to $100 a barrel, according to another Catchlight document.
‘Still Learning’ -
The joint venture never performed final tests on the biofuels process, Stevens said. “They just quit trying.”
Chevron hasn’t stopped working on developing biofuels products, according to Crinklaw, the company spokesman.
Taxpayers will help pay for future solvent liquefaction research. It will be conducted at Iowa State University with a $3.5 million federal grant covering 80 percent of the costs, and Catchlight the rest.
Catchlight is also supplying wood chips to Pasadena, Texas- based KiOR Inc., a biofuels producer that announced its first shipment of cellulosic diesel in March. Chevron has a contract to purchase some of KiOR’s renewable fuels. Weyerhaeuser is happy with the joint venture’s status, said David Godwin, vice president of minerals and energy products.
In October 2010, six months after Chevron and Weyerhaeuser put the brakes on at Catchlight, Chevron ran television and print ads about its work on non-petroleum fuels. “Something’s got to be done. So we’re doing it,” the ads said. “We’re not just behind renewables. We’re tackling the challenges of making them affordable and reliable on a large scale.”
Chevron officials didn’t respond to questions about the advertising campaign.
“We remain interested in the solvent liquefaction technology but, like other biofuels production technologies, it is early in its development, and we’re still learning about it,” Crinklaw said in an e-mailed statement. “Unfortunately, the technology hasn’t advanced as quickly as we hoped.”