RICHMOND -- The U.S. Chemical Safety Board on Monday will present a draft report of findings and recommendations stemming from the Aug. 6, 2012, fire at the Chevron Refinery in Richmond, agency officials announced Friday.

Officials from the safety board, an independent federal agency charged with investigating industrial chemical accidents, will brief news media on the findings and recommendations Monday afternoon.

The new report "proposes recommendations for substantial changes to the way refineries are regulated in California," according to a safety board news release. The report "calls on California to replace the current patchwork of largely reactive and activity-based regulations with a more rigorous, performance-based regulatory regime -- similar to those successfully adopted overseas in regions such as the United Kingdom, Norway and Australia -- known as the 'safety case' system."

Smoke and flame billow from a crude oil unit at the Chevron refinery in Richmond, Calif., Monday, Aug. 6, 2012.
Smoke and flame billow from a crude oil unit at the Chevron refinery in Richmond, Calif., Monday, Aug. 6, 2012. ((D. Ross Cameron/Staff Archives))

The draft report -- released for public comment but not yet voted on by the agency's board -- is expected to expand on a 70-page interim report released in April. In that report, federal investigators criticized the oil giant for failing to replace aging equipment and called for an overhaul of regulatory oversight of the industry.

Chemical Safety Board investigators in April portrayed a refinery that took a Band-Aid approach to plant maintenance -- pipes were often clamped as they aged rather than being replaced, and the section of pipe that ruptured in the fire had deteriorated to less than half the thickness of a dime.

The fire sent 15,000 people in search of medical treatment and shut down for months one of the West Coast's major crude units.


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Daniel Horowitz, the safety board's managing director, said in April that the final report would deal with "cultural factors" at the refinery that tend toward repair rather than replacement of aging components.

The safety board does not conduct criminal investigations or have the power to enforce regulatory changes, instead relying on industry cooperation in pinpointing the causes of accidents and recommending safety improvements.

One year after the fire, the Richmond City Council unanimously voted to sue Chevron after talks with the company over compensation broke down. The crude-oil pipeline leak that caused the blaze represented "a continuation of years of neglect, lax oversight and corporate indifference to necessary safety inspection and repairs," according to the city's suit.

Chevron spokeswoman Melissa Ritchie declined to comment Friday, saying the company needed to review a CSB news release or the report. Chevron has said that it is working closely with the CSB and "continuing to implement a range of actions in response to the fire to improve safety at the facility and address issues raised by the safety board, including strengthening its reliability program for piping and equipment."

Contact Robert Rogers at 510-262-2726 or rrogers@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/SFBaynewsrogers.