Tag Archives: Richmond

Break Out the Champagne at Chevron!

Chevron Refinery Fire

The news reports were on the gee-whiz side this week as state job safety regulators announced nearly $1 million in fines–the largest ever!– against Chevron for its refinery blaze last August. But “largest ever” only means that the levy hit the state’s $1 million cap on such fines. For Chevron, whose yearly profits are measured in the tens of billions (second only to Exxon), $1 million is pocket lint. As with so much of California’s regulation of mega-businesses, such fines are baked into the cost of doing business. They have zero deterrent effect.

The Cal-OSHA fines were for Chevron’s carelessness and lax oversight at its Richmond. CA refinery–leading to a a burst pipe, a huge fire and a toxic smoke cloud that sickened thousands of residents in and around the Richmond, CA, refinery last August. Chevron also dithered and delayed a shutdown for more than two hours after finding the leak, guaranteeing a conflagration.

The blaze starkly illustrated how the energy industry and other polluters evade regulation and play off one regulator against another. The regulators sit in their little silos of fractured authority, disclaiming responsibility for this disaster or that disaster.

Chevron, as the fine was issued, also listed how it would make the aged Richmond refinery safer in the future. The list is a joke–it promises not one cent in capital spending to upgrade and make safer the parts of the plant that didn’t burn down. All of the promises amount to “we’ll keep a closer eye on things.” Keep in mind as you read that Chevron’s inspections and safety training, before the August fire, were considered state of the art in the industry.

Chevron said it was:

  • Enhancing inspections of piping components potentially susceptible to sulfidation corrosion since carbon steel components with low-silicon content can corrode at an accelerated rate. This inspection program is being applied throughout our refinery system worldwide.
  • Strengthening reliability programs for piping and equipment, and enhancing competency requirements for leaders, inspectors and engineers.
  • Strengthening leak response protocols and reinforcing the authority that everyone has to shut down equipment.
  • Creating more management oversight and accountability for process safety and re-emphasizing focus on process safety.

Judy DuganThat all sounds like more of the same, vulnerable to the same human error, reluctance to shut down and cost-cutting that led to the August disaster.The badly corroded pipe that burst, for instance, was skipped in a Nov. 2011 inspection of the unit destroyed by the fire. The deliberate omission was in violation of Chevron’s own safety policies.

Chevron will obviously have to replace the pipes (and everything else) in the processing unit that failed. But even that is in question–the new pipes that Chevron insists it will usewill use are the same as the piping that corroded at a BP refinery in Washington State, leading to a similar huge blaze that shut down the refinery. Richmond’s City Council, which has  final say over how Chevron does its repairs, is largely staying out of the dispute between Chevron and the U.S. Chemical Safety Board over the pipe replacements.

Could it be because Chevron spent $1.2 millon on the city’s municipal municipal election last November, putting two of the three candidates it backed onto the council and fighting off progressive candidates? The company is also pouring millions into pet projects for city leaders.

There are endless ways that a company the size of Chevron can spend relative pennies in order to keep all of its billions in profits. Fines make more economic sense than upgrades. Building parks and meddling in local elections is cheaper than protecting the overall health and safety of local citizens. Spending more millions on state officials and elections is also cheaper than suffering coordinated official scrutiny.

California’s governor and Legislature could easily improve both safety and consumer protection with some reasonable changes:

  • Put oversight and regulation of oil refineries under a single independent body, funded through a tax on oil extraction.
  • Give the regulator the power and funding to inspect refineries regularly and follow up frequently to ensure that violations are fixed.
  • Require refineries to stagger routine maintenance shutdowns in order to prevent spikes in gasoline prices, and oversee routine shutdowns to ensure that they are not dragged out for financial reasons.
  • Require that refiners keep about three weeks’ worth of gasoline in stock to ease price spikes after events like the Richmond fire. This could include stronger oversight of refiners’ exports outside the U.S.

Sounds pretty simple. But Chevron, Exxon and friends see such regulation as interfering in their freedom to profit. Gov. Jerry Brown could lead the reforms above and probably win with major public backing. It’s all a matter of whether anyone, even Brown, will stand up to the oil industry. Early on, he didn’t show much backbone. But with the economy recovering slowly and the state’s debt looking more manageable, the still-popular Brown could successfully lead the charge to make refiners operate safely and in the public interest.


Posted by Judy Dugan, research director emeritus 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. Visit us on Facebook and Twitter.

Our campaign kickoff was a lot of fun. Now it is down to work

First the important part, we need help!  We can’t do it without you:


Our West County Democrats campaign office is open!

* Open everyday starting this Saturday October 7 until Election Day.
* Our goal is to get out the Democratic vote for state candidates
in West County
* Phone banking every day; precinct walking on selected days.

Location: 3431 D MacDonald Ave, Richmond (Corner of MacDonald and 35TH.)

Saturdays 10AM – 2PM
Sundays 12NOON – 6PM
Mon – Thursday 1PM – 8PM
Fridays: 10AM – 2PM

We will target Permanent Absentee Voters starting Saturday.
No need to reserve a seat. Just show up and Dial for Democrats!

Email [email protected] for more information


West County Democrats, an alliance of Richmond, Pinole, Hercules, San
Pablo and El Sobrante Democrats .

We are a group of voters who don’t want to see Schwarzenegger walk away with another term.  More than that, we think that Phil Angelides is the right person for the job!

I don’t know what more to say!  Please ask questions!

Here is the rundown on our kickoff, that ran in the Globe (despite what the caption says, that isn’t Betty Yee in the picture):


The West County Democrats held their first rally in Richmond on Saturday, September 30th, and it was a great success. Co-chairs Councilmember Tony Thurmond and Mayor Irma Anderson kicked off the celebration for our Get Out the Vote effort, located at 3431D Macdonald Ave. across from Lovonya DeGean Middle School. The event drew an enthusiastic crowd, which featured civic leaders including Board of Equalization Member Betty Yee, County Supervisor John Gioia, Councilmember Jim Rogers, and many local activists. Local candidates Antonio Medrano for West Contra Costa Unified School District and Myrna Lopez for Richmond City Council and members of the California Democratic Party also cheered on our efforts.

Speakers addressed the goals of the Democratic Party and expressed excitement for Phil Angelides as a candidate for Governor. They highlighted that Angelides’ leadership has already helped families save for education and helped local teachers purchase their first homes and put down roots in their communities. They also emphasized that as our governor he will continue to focus on people that need help, cutting taxes for those who really need it, improving schools, and expanding access to health care.

It was also a family event with Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi’s daughter, Janet, and his grandchildren enjoying the community event. The Garamendi grandchildren contributed to the festivities by drawing a mural encouraging everyone to vote for Garamendi for Lieutenant Governor because “he’s 4 kids.”

“The heart of our effort is to bring the community together to invest in our government. We want voters to understand that they can make a difference when they take an active roll by voting,” said a spokesperson for the group. The West County Democrats will be educating voters about Democratic candidates to help elect them to public service. They are asking volunteers to help make an investment in their community with time and effort.

Contact the West County Democrats at 510-233-9809 or [email protected] to volunteer. They will be running a phone bank effort at their office at 3431D Macdonald Ave. on Saturday, October 7th between 10am and 4pm. Coffee and refreshments will be available.

We had a great start.  With the help of just a few of you, we can make a better future!

(hee hee, kind of cheesy, but I just couldn’t help myself!)

Voter Outreach: Help needed in Richmond

(Turnout, Turnout, Turnout! It’s critical to all of our races, not just CA-Gov. – promoted by SFBrianCL)

Greetings All!  I just want to make this simple a simple plea…

I am a member of the Democratic Party of Contra Costa County and we are trying to focus our resources of areas that have been more of less taken for granted or neglected.  Richmond is one of those areas.  It is 70% Democratic, but has only 30% turnout.  We are going to change that last number.

But we could really use some help.  We are hoping to start something that won’t disappear on Wednesday, November 8.  We want to make a permanent and ongoing effort.

Isn’t that the strategy?

Press release is on the flip.  Thanks for peeking at it!

Tony Thurmond, Co- Chair, West County Democrats
(510) 681-4127
[email protected]

*West County Democrats Mobilize for Angelides & Statewide Democratic Ticket!*

On Saturday September 30, 2006, the West County Democrats will kick off a month long campaign to mobilize Democratic voters in the West Contra Costa County area. Elected officials and representatives from the California Democratic Party will gather to initiate phone banking, precinct walking, and other measures to help Gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides and other Democrats win statewide office in November.

Co-chaired by Richmond Mayor Irma Anderson and Richmond Councilman Tony Thurmond, West County Democrats is a coalition of Democratic Clubs from the cities of Richmond, El Cerrito, and Hercules. Representatives from the West County Latina/Latino Democratic Club and the Democratic Central Committee of Contra Costa County are also part of the coalition. Organizers hope to translate the 70% plus base of Democratic voters in the Richmond ar ea into a strong turnout for statewide Democratic candidates and initiatives. Nightly phone banking and weekly mobilizations will be used to energize local Democratic voters.

The September 30th mobilization will take place at 10:00AM at the offices of United Heritage Industries located at 5216 Wall Avenue in Richmond, CA. Refreshments will be provided and members of the public are invited to attend and participate in phone banking and precinct walking activities.