SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Chevron Corp. failed to maintain equipment at a California refinery and has not responded adequately to multiple airborne chemical releases, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Tuesday.
The EPA filed a formal notice against Chevron finding 62 violations of federal environmental laws after an investigation spurred by the Aug. 6, 2012, fire.
Federal chemical safety investigators have determined the blaze was caused by the failure of a corroded, 1970s-era pipe that released a massive gas cloud and sent thousands of people to hospitals seeking medical attention.
The EPA called Chevron's risk management at the Richmond facility a "pervasive failure" and warned it could pursue criminal charges or fines if the company fails to address the violations.
Chevron spokeswoman Melissa Ritchie said the company is working with the EPA and other agencies to remedy issues identified in investigations by the government and the company.
"In Richmond, a full, comprehensive inspection of the refinery is ongoing," Ritchie said. "To date, we have inspected thousands of individual piping components and are replacing them as necessary based on the results of these inspections."
Jared Blumenfeld, the EPA's regional administrator, said investigators determined Chevron's culture does not place high enough emphasis on safety. He said the company failed to verify that its own risk management plan was being used by refinery staff.