Criminal Investigation of Flaring at Chevron Refinery
In a September 22 story, the San Francisco Chronicle reports, "Federal authorities have opened a criminal investigation of Chevron...."
According to the Chronicle's report, "Air quality officials say Chevron fashioned a pipe inside its refinery that routed hydrocarbon gases around monitoring equipment and allowed them to be burned off without officials knowing about it."
The report states that the Bay Area Air Quality Management District "...uncovered what Chevron was doing and ordered the bypass pipe removed. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's criminal enforcement unit opened an investigation in early 2012, more than two years after the [Air Quality Management District] inspectors made their discovery." The Chronicle continues, "Federal criminal investigators are trying to determine who at Chevron was aware of the bypass pipe and whether the company used it intentionally to deceive air-pollution regulators."
"Chevron had installed more than 100 feet of 3-inch pipe, linking the vessel where oil is processed to the flare tower, and bypassing two sets of monitoring equipment.... When an operator activated the bypass pipe, the gases were sent up the flare stack without being recorded. Chevron said the pipe was designed to balance pressure in the refining process, but investigators could find no legitimate use for it."
This is the same Chevron refinery, in Richmond, CA, which was partially destroyed by fire in August. There is no suggestion that the flaring or the 'bypass pipe' were connected to the August explosions and fire.