Sacramento—East Bay lawmakers Senator Loni Hancock and Assemblymember Nancy Skinner announced two bills crafted to ensure accountability and the public's safety in the aftermath of the devastating Chevron refinery fire in Richmond last year, according to a joint press release issued by the two legislators this morning, Monday.
According to the release:
These new bills are a direct response of the August 6, 2012 fire at the Chevron refinery in Richmond. This incident caused 15,000 people who breathed emissions from the fire to seek medical attention, and many thousands more to stay indoors.
Senator Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley) introduced, SB 691 to dramatically increase the civil penalties air polluters must pay for violations of air quality regulations on stationary sources of air pollution. This new law will increase the penalty for one day violations of air quality regulations to $100,000 from large polluters. It will also apply to the first day of multi-day violations. Under current law, the maximum penalty is only $25,000 if negligence can be demonstrated and depending on the circumstance up to $10,000 if it cannot be shown.
“I am introducing this bill because current penalties are far too low for polluters who cause thousands of people to suffer,” Senator Hancock said.
Under current law, penalties are assessed per day. Thus, for a one-day event like the Richmond fire, Chevron may face only a minimal fine.
“Single-day violations of air quality regulations that affect entire communities lack adequate financial consequences,” Senator Hancock explained. “Current penalties are simply inadequate to ensure compliance with the law from large polluters.”
The legislation is sponsored by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and Breathe California.
Assemblymember Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) introduced legislation, AB 1165, that will allow Cal/OSHA to ensure that unsafe conditions get corrected in a timely manner, even if the company or other entity cited for a violation decides to undergo an appeals process.
"Under current rules an appeals process can leave unsafe conditions in place for months and even years," Assemblymember Skinner said. "AB 1165 improves worker and public safety by requiring hazardous conditions to get fixed even when a violation is appealed."
On January 30, 2013, Cal/OSHA issued 25 workplace violations to Chevron in connection to the Chevron's Richmond Refinery last year. Under current law if Chevron chose to appeal, the company would not have to abate any of the violations until the appeals process was resolved.
"If AB 1186 were in effect today we would all have peace of mind knowing that hazardous conditions don't linger," Assemblymember Skinner said.
Hancock represents the Ninth Senate District, while Skinner represents the 15th Assembly District. Both districts iclude El Cerrito.