Chevron settles with county and state 2021 diesel spill in San Francisco Bay

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The Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office announced on Friday that it and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife have reached an agreement with the Chevron Richmond refinery over a 2021 pipe rupture that spilled nearly 800 gallons of diesel in the San Francisco Bay.

District Attorney Diana Becton’s press release noted that the settlement included civil penalties against Chevron, but did not disclose the amount.

“Companies must be held strictly responsible for any diesel releases in the San Francisco Bay Area,” Becton said in the statement. “Chevron has cooperated with the investigation and has agreed to specific provisions that will enhance their ability to prevent and mitigate the unauthorized release of diesel in the future.”

The United Command, which includes the U.S. Coast Guard, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Contra Costa County Health Services and Chevron, inspects the shoreline Feb. 23, 2021. (Courtesy Fish and Wildlife)

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

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

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

The leak was discovered when a citizen called the refinery to report a splash on the water near Long Wharf. Chevron waited more than 40 minutes to contact the National Response Center, records show, although the state regulations say hazardous material spills should be reported to the Office of Emergency Services “immediately”.

According to a state report during the incident, when Chevron reported the spill, the pipeline was still leaking about five gallons per 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 stalled for months as the county negotiated with Chevron over confidential information in the company’s report. The department has not yet released its opinion.

“Our law enforcement personnel conducted the investigation on behalf of the State of California, and we are pleased with the outcome,” said David Bess, deputy director of Fish and Wildlife and chief enforcement officer of the law, in the press release. “The judgment will help prevent the recurrence of another diesel spill at this facility and reinforce our commitment to keeping the California coastline intact.”

The spill raised alarm in the community and prompted the San Francisco Herring Association will continue Chevron, alleging the spill threatened a herring spawning ground. A sliver of oil was visible in the pools at Saltwater Station, a private beach southeast of Long Wharf, for about 10 days after the spill. A cleanup crew removed contaminated shoreline vegetation at this location.

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

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