RICHMOND -- The investigation into the massive fire at the Richmond Chevron refinery by a handful of agencies has gotten chippy, as state officials used social media to claim their federal counterparts were "grandstanding," "scaring" the public and biased.

Since the early stages of the investigation, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board has held news conferences and spoken openly about its findings, while the other handful of agencies have played a quieter role with the media. As the investigation into the Aug. 6 fire continues, the agencies have been working alongside each other at the damaged No. 4 crude unit.

On Aug. 11, Cal/OSHA lead investigator Clyde Trombettas posted a statement on his Facebook page -- which is open to the public --criticizing the feds.

"Typical CSB grandstanding in the press," he wrote. "Scaring the public with half truths and misleading information. Two days into an investigation and they can't wait to talk to the press. Hmmm ... one might conclude they have a biased agenda. they don't even play nice in the sandbox."

Cal/OSHA compliance engineer Carla Fritz commented on Trombettas' post, calling the chemical board's comments "a one-note, quickie conclusion designed to incriminate, to indict, to dazzle the media, & to inflate one's standing in a community of committed health & safety professionals...


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"I would be a poor investigator indeed if I were to climb onto the bandstand early & loudly with my uninformed OPINION, only to be constrained to retract my bombast later on," she wrote. "Without putting too fine a point on it, it is unwise, incautious, prejudicial, & likely ultimately not helpful to pursue the 'ready fire aim' strategy."

Trombettas' post was eventually removed.

Chemical board spokesman Daniel Horowitz declined to comment on the Facebook chatter, but said the two agencies signed an arrangement for site preservation and evidence testing Friday, along with the United Steelworkers union, and now they await Chevron's action.

"This will be an effective blueprint for continued, sustained cooperation," Horowitz said.

In a Wednesday post, Trombettas posted photos from the feds, stating: "I'd lose my job if I released photos like that to the general public. That's the difference between an 'advisory board': who only makes recommendations, and an enforcement agency i.e. Cal/Osha who issues citations (with a monetary penalty.)"

Fritz again chimed in, saying the federal agency "treats local law enforcement like the Clampets from the Beverly Hillbillies."

Neither Trombettas nor Fritz could be reached for comment, and Trombettas' second post was removed Saturday as well.

Contact Matthias Gafni at 925-952-5026. Follow him at Twitter.com/mgafni.