ECLECTIC RANT: Chevron's Richmond Refinery Fire: Another Case of Environmental and Community Destruction

By Ralph E. Stone
Wednesday August 29, 2012 - 04:31:00 PM

Chevron's Richmond Refinery -- the company's second largest refinery -- recently spewed toxic smoke over Richmond and San Pablo sending more than 14,000 people in the East Bay to medical facilities with smoke-related complaints. This is but the latest in Chevron's legacy of environmental and community destruction. 

Chevron is the second largest oil company in the United States and the third largest corporation in the U.S. with $26.9 billion in 2011 profits. It explores for, produces, refines, transports and markets oil, natural gas, and gasoline. Major operations also include chemical, coal mining and power generation companies. But Chevron's main revenues is from its oil and gasoline businesses. 

Chevron's world headquarters is located in San Ramon, California. Its refinery in Richmond, California is one a the largest in the U.S. More than 25,000 people live within three miles of the refinery. According to the U.S. Census,about 16 percent of the residents live below the federal poverty line, and about 80 percent of the residents are listed as “minorities." Within a mile of the refinery are businesses, houses, a school and playgrounds. 

One of Chevron's ads states, "Protecting the planet is everyone's job. I agree. What Chevron is doing. . . Yet, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported the release or disposal of more than 600,000 pounds of toxic waste from the Richmond site in 2009, including at least 36 toxic substances, including more than 3,800 pounds of benzene, a known human carcinogen, and over 235,000 pounds of ammonia, repeated exposure to which can cause an asthma-like allergy and lead to lung damage 

According to the California Air Resources Board (, Chevron was the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in California in 2009 and a high priority violator (HPV) of the Clean Air Act since at least 2006. HPV is the most serious level of violation noted by the EPA. 

A 2008 Brown University toxic exposure study concluded that the air inside the homes of Richmond residents is more toxic than outside due to harmful pollutants from the refinery, which can cause respiratory diseases. ( In fact, Richmond had the third highest number of deaths from cancer between 2003 and 2007 of any city in Contra Costa County.  

In addition, an October 2010 County Asthma Profile found that county residents, as compared to all Californians, are hospitalized for asthma at higher rates; have higher death rates due to asthma, particularly among adults ages 65 and older; and have higher rates of visits to the emergency doctor, particularly for children aged 0 to 4 years. 

For the sake of the community and the environment, it is time for federal and state regulators to force Chevron to use its vast resources to finally clean up its act. 

Source: The True Cost of Chevron: An Alternative Annual Report (may 2011) released by Global Exchange last year. The Report shows Chevron's consistent pattern of using its vast financial and political weight to operate with blatant disrespect for the health, security, economic livelihood, safety, and environment of far too many communities within which it operates. Such as the gross human rights abuses by the company in Burma and Nigeria; environmental and public health devastation in California, Alaska, Mississippi, New York, New Jersey, Angola, Canada, Chad, Cameroon, Ecuador, Kazakhstan, and the Philippines; participation in a war for oil in Iraq; and great political and consumer price manipulation throughout the U.S. and globally.