Chevron Corp. has paid about $10 million and begun “corrective actions” in the aftermath of last summer’s refinery fire, sparked when a corroded pipe leaked high-temperature gas oil, according to a report the energy giant filed with the Contra Costa County Health Services Department on Monday. Among the changes made at the 245,000-barrels-per-day refinery are expanded testing to detect thinning pipes, new leak-response protocols and increasing employee training, according to the 11-page report.
A consumer watchdog group filed an appeal Monday that seeks to reverse a state commission’s decision in December that will let Pacific Gas & Electric raise rates to help finance the company’s upgrades of its natural gas system. The improvements are being made in the wake of the lethal natural gas explosion in September 2010 that killed eight and demolished part of a San Bruno neighborhood. “We have said over and over again that the PUC cannot require customers to pay for PG&E’s mistakes,” said Mindy Spatt, a spokeswoman for Toward Utility Rate Normalization, or TURN, which filed the appeal with the state Public Utilities Commission.
The San Jose City Council on Tuesday is poised to take one of its most important environmental votes in decades on a plan that over the next 50 years would protect habitat for endangered species even as development continues. San Jose is the last of six governmental agencies in Santa Clara County to take up the Habitat Conservation Plan, an attempt to balance conservation and construction over five decades. If approved, the plan would affect 506,000 acres, almost 60 percent of the county, and raise $665 million, mostly from developer fees, government agencies, state and federal grants and private donations.
Latino and business groups applauded a sweeping immigration overhaul proposed Monday by eight Democratic and Republican senators, but its omission of binational same-sex couples alarmed activists who fear those couples could be used as a bargaining chip to woo GOP votes for legislation later this year. The framework calls for providing a path to citizenship for the nation’s estimated 11 million illegal immigrants; tougher border enforcement, including the use of drones; and an entry-exit system to track foreigners who overstay their visas.
Oakland, California, officials worry that a surge in crime will cost the city employers even as the state begins to shake off the worst recession since the Great Depression. The city of about 396,000 has hired former New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton to boost crime-fighting in a community where census data show 1-in-5 residents live in poverty, while 8 percent of owner-occupied homes are valued at $1 million or more.
Apple abdicated its throne of most valuable company in the United States to Exxon Mobil for all of one day, as the tech giant’s stock rebounded Monday to take the title back from the largest American oil company. The Cupertino company’s stock rebounded Monday, however, gaining 2.3 percent to close at $449.83, giving it a market cap — the total value of all shares in a company — of $422.4 billion. Exxon dropped 0.7 percent on the day to close at $91.11, giving it a market cap of $415.4 billion.
There was joy Monday in Middle Earth, and Oakland, too: Pacific Gas and Electric Co. officials have changed their minds and will not evict thousands of gnomes nestling on their utility poles. The reprieve came shortly after the utility announced it would remove the diminutive, hand-painted creatures that have been proliferating around Lake Merritt for six months on the grounds they were “compromising” utility equipment. “We received a great deal of public feedback, so we’re declaring the poles gnome-man’s land. We’re not going to remove them,” PG&E spokesman Jason King said. “We’re committed to working with the artist, the city and the community to find a peaceful resolution.”
After throwing the book at a private contractor accused of accidentally causing the massive 2008 Summit wildfire, Santa Clara County prosecutors Monday abruptly dropped the most serious charge against the defendant on the brink of trial. Prosecutors said they weren’t confident they could prove a felony reckless-burning charge against contractor Channing Verden. But they also were about to confront a defendant who was going to claim he was the victim of a double standard — by pointing out that prosecutors never charged a state fire captain with any crime, even though the captain’s arguably similar actions had sparked the subsequent 2009 Loma fire.
The Santa Rosa City Council on Monday night selected Robin Swinth, a member of the city’s powerful Board of Public Utilities and a former Agilent Technologies engineer, to fill the remaining two years of Susan Gorin’s council term. “She did her homework,” Mayor Scott Bartley said of Swinth’s presentation earlier in the day to the council. “I think she’ll do an excellent job.”