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Nationwide settlement with Chevron U.S.A. to address chemical accident prevention violations

Staff Writer | October 25, 2018
The U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) announced a national settlement with Chevron U.S.A. that requires safety improvements at all of its petroleum refineries across the United States, resolving claims that the company violated provisions of the Clean Air Act aimed at preventing accidental releases of hazardous chemicals that can have serious consequences for public health and the environment.
America   Chevron will spend approximately $150 million
As part of the proposed settlement, Chevron will spend approximately $150 million to replace vulnerable pipes, institute operating parameters and alarms for safer operation, improve corrosion inspections and training, centralize safety authority within the corporation, conduct a pilot study of safety controls for fired heaters, and make other safety improvements at all its domestic refineries.

Chevron also will pay a $2.95 million civil penalty and will implement supplemental environmental projects worth at least $10 million in the communities surrounding the refineries in California, Mississippi, Utah, and Hawaii.

The overall value of this settlement exceeds $160 million, which makes it the largest settlement in the history of the EPA’s enforcement of the Risk Management Plan Rule under Clean Air Act Section 112(r).

EPA’s initial investigation was spurred by an August 6, 2012 fire involving high-temperature hydrocarbons released in the Crude Unit at Chevron’s Richmond, California refinery.

That fire prompted a shelter-in-place order by Contra Costa County officials, endangered 19 employees, and caused 15,000 local residents to seek medical attention.

During EPA’s investigation, Chevron experienced accidental releases of regulated chemicals at two of its other refineries, including a 2013 explosion and fire in Pascagoula, Mississippi that caused the death of employee Tonya Graddy, and a 2013 rupture in El Segundo, California that caused a loss of power and flaring at the refinery.

The United States’ and Mississippi’s Complaint, filed concurrently with the proposed settlement today in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, alleges violations of Section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act.

Section 112(r) requires covered facilities to implement a systematic Risk Management Program to prevent accidental releases of dangerous substances, and to meet a general duty of care in designing and maintaining safe facilities.

The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality participated as co-plaintiff, exercising its concurrent authority to enforce the Risk Management Program regulations over Chevron’s Pascagoula refinery. This is the first case in which the United States and a state have jointly brought suit to enforce these provisions.

The proposed settlement also resolves claims under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) regarding delayed reporting of an August 2, 2012, hydrogen sulfide release from Chevron’s Richmond facility.

The Supplemental Environmental Projects that Chevron has agreed to perform, valued at $10 million, will supply emergency response equipment to local jurisdictions surrounding the five subject refineries.