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Chevron settles for $200,500 with county and state over 2021 diesel spill in San Francisco Bay

on November 5, 2022

The Contra Costa County district attorney’s office announced Friday that it and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife have reached a settlement with the Chevron Richmond Refinery over a 2021 pipe rupture that dumped nearly 800 gallons of diesel into San Francisco Bay.

Under the agreement, approved Monday in Contra Costa County Superior Court, Chevron will cover cleanup costs of $130,543.26 and will pay $70,000 in civil penalties to the state and county.

“Corporations must be held strictly liable for any discharges of diesel into San Francisco Bay,” District Attorney Diana Becton said in a news release. “Chevron was cooperative with the investigation and agreed to specific provisions that will enhance their ability to prevent and mitigate the unauthorized release of diesel in the future.”

Cleanup complete after a Chevron oil spill in February
The Unified Command, which includes U.S. Coast Guard, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Contra Costa County Health Services and Chevron inspect the shoreline on Feb. 23, 2021. (Courtesy of Fish and Wildlife)

The agreement stipulates that the civil penalties Chevron will pay will be divided evenly between Fish and Wildlife’s Environmental Enhancement Fund and the county’s Fish and Wildlife Propagation Fund.

In addition, Chevron agreed to address hazards at the plant, which is Richmond’s largest employer, with about 1,200 workers. It will develop a leak detection system and more comprehensive pipeline inspection program, as well as train staff and review its existing safety systems.

In a report to the county last fall, Chevron said its initial inspection found that a diesel and water mixture leaked into the bay in the afternoon of Feb. 9, 2021, because a pipe had corroded and its inspection techniques had been inadequate to detect it. 

Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response investigated the release, which occurred south of the Richmond Long Wharf to Cypress Point and north to Point Molate. 

The leak came to light when a citizen called the refinery to report a sheen on the water near the Long Wharf. Chevron waited more than 40 minutes to contact the National Response Center, records show, though state regulations say spills of hazardous materials must be reported to the Office of Emergency Services “immediately.”

According to a state report on the incident, when Chevron called in the spill, the pipeline was still leaking about five gallons a minute.

Contra Costa Health Services promised an independent investigation into the spill, but instead hired a consultant to review Chevron’s internal investigation. That review was tied up for months as the county negotiated with Chevron over proprietary information in the company’s report. The county has not yet released its review.

“Our law enforcement personnel led the investigation on behalf of the State of California, and we are pleased with the outcome,” David Bess, Fish and Wildlife’s deputy director and chief of law enforcement, said in the news release. “The judgment will help prevent the reoccurrence of another diesel spill from this facility and reinforces our commitment to keeping California’s coastline pristine.”

The spill raised alarm in the community and prompted the San Francisco Herring Association to sue Chevron, alleging the spill threatened a herring spawning area. An oil sheen was visible in standing pools at Saltwater Station, a private beach southeast of the Long Wharf, for about 10 days after the spill. A clean-up team removed contaminated vegetation on the shoreline there.

County contractor with Chevron ties has yet to investigate refinery’s 2021 diesel leak

1 Comment

  1. Clair Brown on November 6, 2022 at 4:52 pm

    The information of the range of the oil spill provided by Chevron is not correct. The oil spill did not end at Cypress Point, but traveled further south and could be seen at Keller Beach. Also the health of people living nearby was impacted, and this was not investigated and included in the report.
    I know because I live across the street from Keller Beach, and could see the oil sheen and could smell the oil. I had to shelter in place, because the oil smell made me feel ill for two days.
    This seems to be the way Chevron and Contra Costa County do things—Chervon’s profits are much more important than the wellbeing of Contra Costa’s residents and the environment.
    Thanks for your reporting on another sad day in Richmond.
    Clair Brown
    Point Richmond resident for 30 years
    Economics Professor at UC Berkeley

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