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Friday, August 9, 2013

Chevron pleads no contest to criminal charges stemming from Richmond refinery fire

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MARTINEZ -- Chevron will pay $2 million in fines and restitution after pleading no contest Monday to six misdemeanor criminal charges stemming from a fire at its Richmond refinery last year.

Chevron attorneys accepted the terms, including 3 1/2 years of probation, $1.28 million in fines, and more than $720,000 in restitution payments to three different agencies.

The penalties resulted from joint charges filed Monday in Contra Costa Superior Court by state Attorney General Kamala Harris and Contra Costa County District Attorney Mark Peterson. The terms of the plea had been agreed to by both sides before Monday's hearing.

"This criminal case achieves our goals of holding Chevron accountable for their

conduct, protecting the public, and ensuring a safer work environment at the refinery," Peterson said in a news release. Peterson also praised Chevron for its "commitment to do more than what is required by law" to prevent future accidents.

Chevron committed six violations of labor, health and safety standards, according to the complaint. The violations included failure to "correct deficiencies" in equipment, negligent emissions and failure to prevent employees' exposure to hazardous conditions.

The Aug. 6 fire knocked out the refinery's No. 4 crude unit and sent more than 15,000 people to area hospitals complaining of respiratory discomfort and other symptoms. Subsequent investigations have revealed that the fire was caused by a corroded pipe that failed,...

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