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Chevron Corp. settles criminal suit following refinery fire

Each year, countless workers in Texas are seriously injured or even killed in refinery accidents. Oftentimes, refinery plant explosions and fires are the result of gross negligence on the part of the refinery operator. This appears to be the case in a refinery fire that occurred last summer in the San Francisco Bay area.

Last month, Chevron Corp. agreed to pay $2 million in fines and restitution after thousands of residents were sent to hospitals with respiratory problems after the refinery fire. In the wake of the incident, Chevron was charged by state prosecutors of failing to correct deficiencies in equipment, failing to require the use of certain equipment to protect employees from potential harm as well as other violations.

An investigation following the Aug. 6, 2012 refinery fire discovered that the company did not replace a pipe that was decades-old despite warnings from its own inspectors, and that contributed to the accident. On August 5, almost exactly a year after the incident, the company agreed to settle the criminal lawsuit but pleaded no contest to all six charges.

In addition to the criminal charges, Chevron also faces many civil claims from residents of the area who were injured as a result of the fire and chemical release. In January, the company said it had already handed out close to $10 million in nearly 24,000 civil claims that were filed by residents. The sum also included payments made to area hospitals and local government agencies.

This accident is a good example of what happens when safety is not made the No. 1 priority at refineries in Texas and the rest of the country. Hopefully, Chevron and other oil companies are able to learn from this incident, which could have easily proved fatal.

Source: KTVU.com, "Chevron agrees to pay $2M for Richmond refinery fire," Aug. 5, 2013

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