New bills take aim at Chevron

The co-announced legislation would impose higher fines against air quality polluters and ensure more timely corrections to unsafe workplace conditions. (Photo by: Tawanda Kanhema)

The co-announced legislation would impose higher fines against air quality polluters and ensure more timely corrections to unsafe workplace conditions. (Photo by: Tawanda Kanhema)

Two bills introduced in the State Legislature Friday take aim at Chevron in direct response to the August refinery fire.

Berkeley Democrats State Senator Loni Hancock and Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner co-announced legislation Monday that would impose higher fines against air quality polluters and ensure more timely corrections to unsafe workplace conditions.

Hancock authored a bill that would quadruple the civil penalties large polluters must pay for air quality regulations violations. In a news release, Hancock said current penalties “are far too low for polluters who cause thousands of people to suffer.” For violations lasting one day, the law would increase the fine from as much as $25,000 to $100,000.

The bill is sponsored by the Bay Area Quality Management District and Breathe California, a lung health advocacy group.

Skinner’s proposal would require companies to immediately remedy workplace hazards discovered by the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA), even if the business appeals the citations.

The proposals are in keeping with the latest fallout surrounding the fire that injured six Chevron employees and led 15,000 residents to seek medical treatment after breathing polluted air.

In a report earlier this month, the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board and Cal/OSHA accused Chevron of knowingly failing to replace the aged and corroded pipe that ruptured, causing the fire. In January, Cal/OSHA fined the company close to $1 million for endangering refinery workers. Chevron is appealing the 25 violations, which under current law would allow the company to delay any fixes until the process is resolved.

“Under current rules an appeals process can leave unsafe conditions in place for months and even years,” Skinner said in a statement. “If AB 1165 were in effect today we would all have peace of mind knowing that hazardous conditions don’t linger.”

A Chevron spokesman said via email “it would be premature” to comment on the proposed legislation before the company has had a chance to review it in detail.

“Chevron is committed to operating safely and with respect for the environment,” spokesman Morgan Crinklaw said in a statement.

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