(Alex Tafla/Flickr)

On Monday, an explosion and fire at Chevron’s Richmond refinery released plumes of smokes across Bay Area skies, closing BART stations and sending local residents to emergency rooms with breathing problems. The fire has now been contained, and there were no major injuries. We’ll discuss the incident and the response.

We want to hear from you, particularly Richmond residents: what is it like to live near — or work at — Northern California's largest oil refinery?

Guests:
Heather Kulp, public relations manager for Chevron in Richmond
Greg Karras, senior scientist with Communities for a Better Environment
Sandy Saeteurn, community organizer in Richmond with the Asian Pacific Environmental Network
David Baker, energy reporter for The San Francisco Chronicle

  • Rhet

    All this squabbling looks bad for both companies, and it’s expensive. Therefore Apple should just buy Samsung’s electronics operation. In doing so Apple would gain the ability to manufacture OLED displays, which is essential for the future.

  • Maia

    As a Richmond resident I resent Chevron’s insistence on not fully paying the taxes they owe to the city while burdening us with the health and environmental impacts of their practices.

  • Chereon

    I heard an interview with a Richmond woman who had to wait for a bus to get to Kaiser to treat her asthma. Chevron at LEAST should have a program that pays for taxis and ambulances for residents who are sickened she there is a refinery accident. Apologies are not enough! For people with asthma and environmental illness, sheltering I place is not good enough.

  • guest

    I live in Pleasant Hill (Martinez border) and just closed all my windows. Currently smelling a stinky, propane-like odor.

  • Jcole

    Please tell us if there is any impact on using the Richmond Bridge

  • Jinthebay

    Will there be a contra costa public health person at our meeting tonight? My family lives in Richmond and I live in Point Richmond. Should we be concerned with walking around our neighborhood? I hope the legal battles with the community and Chevron are a part of the coverage. 

  • guest

    I doubt that Chevron will speak to the severity of the situation. Every newscast I’ve heard with Heather Kulp – she does NOT answer questions with specific answers, she’s dodging direct questions and is very good at being evasive. She’ll probably get a bonus.

  • Sarah Naumann

    I appreciate NPR asking for information but I got “nothing” from the recent forum discussion. Typical evasiveness. Makes me not trust. I live in El Cerrito and don’t know how safe anything is either. Information please!

  • EastRichmondRes

    I’m a Richmond resident and am infuriated by Chevron’s lame deferral of all health risk questions to Contra Costa Health Services.  Chevron should have people on the ground collecting air samples of their own and keeping the community informed. Just another example of corporations externalizing their environmental costs on the communities in which they operate. And what about the people who couldn’t get home last night because BART and AC Transit were shut down?

  • Nansternan

    Where is the particulate and toxic cloud blowing? One doesn’t have to see it to feel it. I live in San Ramon and my throat is hoarse and scratchy and eyes are all gooey?This is.not a natural thing for me. Windows were shut all night after hearing one blip on the weather that some of the crap could be making it’s way on down to Alamo area. Today before going outdoors  I looked online to see if there were any health advisories still in effect around exercising outside…and if the information is there it is impossible to find. WHERE IS THIS? There is this feeling of a giant elephant in the living room trying to hide under the rug and this is appalling. This happens with every refinery incident…Chevron or otherwise and there have been 2 in the 17 months I’ve lived here.  Be interesting to see how safety inspections are really done?  or not.  Close Chevron down.  Higher gas prices..oh well..Id rather pay that or ride my bike than live under the threat of being poisoned by an archaic Chevron factory. All the people left without a job can take part in the environmental clean up efforts and be paid by the agency who does their inspections.  THis is totally simplistic I realize and also  I’m angry.   Chevron step up to the integrity plate – start by paying all those people for their medical bills…just pay for it amd skip all the lawsuit crap.  And then 30 years from now when everyone has lung disease..pay for that too. And we thought being addicted to cigarettes and trying to quite smoking was tough, at least there we had a choice, once we knew of the lethal side effects ..to smoke or not to smoke, to quit or not to quit.  THese refinery incidents are like forced smoking. Do we need a smoking section for Chevron? Where would that be? 

  • Witty1

    Chevron is Kulp’able.

  • Phuang

    I have watched a documentary on petroleum refinery’s impact on human health. It is not pretty. Here is what I remember from the film: 

    Petroleum Refinery + in Your Neighborhood = Cancers. 

    The toxins produced in the process of refining crude oil are extremely bad for children. It can cause blood cancer in people as young as in their early 20s. I think the risk of people who live near refinery to development blood cancer is couple folds above the national average. 

  • Guest

    Why do people continue to complain about the Richmond refinery?  When it was built, over a hundred years ago,  the city of Richmond wasn’t even incorporated.  What do you expect when you move next to a refinery?  Sunshine and apple pie?  People of Richmond need to be reminded of who was there first and the risk of living next to a refinery.  If you don’t like it move but don’t expect a Company to do everything for you.  I will feel different if the refinery was built in a heavy populated area.  Then I would expect that Company to have more stake in the game. As always, people want cheap gas but don’t want a refinery in their backyard….

    • I’ve been back and forth on whether to respond to this comment.  But the position expressed above is prevalent enough that I feel the point has to be made: many of us who live in Richmond are not well off, particularly those residing in the immediate vicinity of the refinery — a largely low-income, minority community.  Low income means restricted housing options, to say nothing of the race-based housing discrimination many people of color face.  Which is why the poorest among us so often reside in toxic neighborhoods: it’s simply the only affordable option.  In other words, folks do not “move next to a refinery” for the desirable real estate.  Their living situation is a matter of structural poverty, limited political power, and a lack of accountability on the part of filthy rich polluters like Chevron. 

  • Tony

    The Chevron spokeswoman knew less than your other guests and as a result seemed completely unforthcoming. 
    Mr. Karras mentioned the Chevron report from early this morning that stated that several oxidation products, SO2, NO2, H2O (water vapor) etc., were emitted.  These compounds result from the fire that burned the volatile hydrocarbons that were leaking from the refinery unit.  But before the fire started these hydrocarbons leaked into the atmosphere uncombusted.  These emissions must be reported too because they can be both toxic and carcinogenic. 

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