New State Laws Would Toughen Penalties for Refineries & Other Major Polluters

These laws target Chevron specifically, but would affect others as well.

We ran a story on Benicia Patch yesterday about the possibility of Valero beginning to bring oil into its refinery via railcar. Below you'll find some more refinery news. Although this targets Chevron, it will affect all major polluters. 

By Bay City News Service

Two East Bay Area lawmakers introduced air pollution bills this week inspired by the massive fire at Chevron's Richmond refinery last August.  

State Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Oakland, and state Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, each announced bills Monday aimed at holding oil refineries and other major polluters accountable for air quality violations. 

Representatives from both legislators' offices say the bills are a "direct response" to the Chevron refinery fire on Aug. 6 that spewed toxic smoke into the air and sent 15,000 people to hospitals to be treated for breathing problems and other illnesses linked to the blaze.  

Hancock introduced Senate Bill 691 to raise the civil penalties air polluters must pay for air quality regulation violations. Under the proposed law, refineries and other major polluters would have to pay $100,000 for one-day violations of air quality regulations, according to the senator's office. 

The maximum penalty for such violations is $25,000 under current law.

"I am introducing this bill because current penalties are far too low for polluters who cause thousands of people to suffer," Hancock said in a statement. 

The legislation was sponsored by Bay Area Air Quality Management District and Breathe California, an advocacy group that works to reduce the impact of lung disease. 

State Assembly Bill 1165 was crafted to ensure that unsafe conditions at refineries are corrected as soon as possible, even if the company cited for an air quality violation undergoes an appeals process, according to Skinner's office.

"Under current rules an appeals process can leave unsafe conditions in place for months and even years," the assemblywoman said. "AB 1165 improves worker and public safety by requiring hazardous conditions to get fixed even when a violation is appealed." 

The California Department of Occupational Safety and Health, or Cal/OSHA, hit Chevron last month with 25 workplace violations linked to last year's Richmond refinery fire. Under current law, if Chevron chooses to appeal the department's decision, the company would not have to address any of the violations until the appeals process was resolved.          

Skinner said if the bill were in effect today "we would all have peace of mind knowing that hazardous conditions don't linger." 

Copyright © 2013 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.

Richard Bortolazzo February 27, 2013 at 09:24 PM
Valero is already thinking of leaving the state. Let's just speed up the process. Believe me, it all translates into the cost of energy. It's no big deal as long as YOU can afford it.
Robert Livesay February 27, 2013 at 10:26 PM
Valero is not leaving. Just ,think Monterey Shale oil field right here in California. It will flow gold. Why do you thinkl Valero wants the train rail. Willing to spend maybe 30 mil;
None February 27, 2013 at 10:40 PM
Perhaps you haven’t thought about what has happened in the past. I don’t think you recall that when the Exxon Valdez caused the spill in Alaska in 1989, but immediately after that occurred, the price of gasoline increased at every gas station in the country. Why? Perhaps it isn’t just a cost or a fine on one company; it’s a cost to an entire industry. When the fire and explosion took place in the Gulf of Mexico on a BP operation, prices of gasoline escalated here in California. I still believe that an incentive is a better cure than a fine or a penalty for an accident.
WM - Concerned February 28, 2013 at 04:51 PM
Seems all the ones that want to fine the refineries for having an accident are the same ones that love to see those who work hard be penalized. Seems in the foreseeable future, petorleum products are required to keep the country running. If all the trains, trucks and airplanes did not have fuel.....where would we be? Where would you that supports such garbage be if you did not have a means of transportation?? If you think electric cars are the solution....have you priced one lately??
T. Gunter February 28, 2013 at 10:18 PM
I remember when flat-screen TVs cost an arm and a leg. Not so much anymore.


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