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Federal investigators slam Chevron for refinery fire

Last summer, the people of Richmond were in shock from the explosion and following fire that broke out at the Chevron oil refinery in their city. Black plumes of smoke hovered over the Bay, and people filled local emergency rooms with respiratory complaints. Chevron blamed the explosion on a ruptured pipeline.

But why did the pipeline rupture? And what kind of shape are Chevron’s pipes in overall? The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (the CSB) launched an investigation to answer those questions, and to evaluate all of Chevron’s pipes, its crisis readiness and response. Yesterday, it issued its final report, detailing errors, from clamping faulty pipelines instead of replacing them, to more big picture issues like weak regulation of the oil industry. 

Robert Rogers reports for the Bay Area News Group and he’s been following the CSB’s investigation. 

"The key findings and some of the more disturbing details that have come out of the CSB's investigation, is the fact that it wasn't just a pipe that sprung a leak to cause the fire," he says, "but in fact it was an old pipe made of the wrong material that had been kept in use long past its reasonably safe service life. 

Rogers spoke with KALW's Hana Baba to break down the report.

Click the audio player above to listen to the interview. 


Hana Baba is host of Crosscurrents, KALW's weeknight newsmagazine that broadcasts on KALW Public Radio in the San Francisco Bay Area.