RICHMOND -- Two East Bay legislators on Wednesday called for a state hearing on steps that government agencies are taking to prevent incidents like last month's massive fire at Chevron's local refinery.
"We've learned hard lessons from past events such as the San Bruno pipeline explosion, and it's clear from information that has emerged so far about this refinery fire that more needs to be done to protect public health and safety," Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, said in a news release. "As legislators, it's our responsibility to ensure that our regulations are working and that companies are in compliance."
Added state Sen. Loni Hancock, also of Berkeley, "This is an opportunity to determine whether additional legislation or other action is needed to ensure that public and worker health is protected in the region and throughout the state."
Meanwhile, Chevron issued an "industry alert" announcing that it is exploring whether the section of the pipe that triggered the blaze may have been thinned by corrosion through a process known as "high temperature sulfidation."
Chevron pointed out in the alert that the 200-foot pipe had been inspected as scheduled but not the 5-foot section that failed. It also said that pipes with low silicon content can corrode at rates not readily detected through regular monitoring.
Refinery General Manager Nigel Hearne said Monday the pipe that failed had a low level of silicon.
On Monday night, more than 150 residents turned out for a public meeting at the Richmond Memorial Auditorium, which was hosted by federal, state and county agencies involved in the fire response and investigation. U.S. Chemical Safety Board inspector Steve Cutchen said internal Chevron procedure documents indicate that "every section (of the pipe) should have been inspected."
Ellen Widess, chief of the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA), told the crowd that the fire at the Richmond refinery, Chevron's oldest, has exposed what may be a larger problem of thinning pipes passing through inspections. Widess said her agency has expanded its investigation to Chevron's refinery in El Segundo and discovered "similar problems."
Chevron's alert Wednesday stressed that it has stepped up its inspections.
"Chevron U.S.A. is inspecting all components in similar carbon steel systems exposed to sulfidation-corrosion conditions," the release read.