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State fines Chevron $1 million for Richmond refinery fire

SACRAMENTO -- California safety officials ordered Chevron Corp. to pay nearly $1 million in penalties for safety violations that led to a massive fire last summer at a refinery at Richmond in the San Francisco Bay Area.

In all, the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health issued 25 citations against California’s biggest oil company, including 11 “willful serious” and 12 lesser “serious” violations related to the Aug. 6 blaze, the state said.

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The fine, which could be appealed by Chevron, is the highest in Cal-OSHA history, the agency said.

“Ensuring worker safety is the employer’s responsibility,” said Christine Baker, director of the state Department of Industrial Relations, which oversees Cal-OSHA. “Refineries must take the steps needed to prevent incidents like the August Chevron fire. Failure to do so can pose great dangers to workers, surrounding communities and the environment.”

Chevron said it intends to appeal some of the state citations. “Chevron takes our commitment to safe operations seriously,” the San Ramon, Calif., company said in a statement. “Although we acknowledge that we failed to live up to our own expectations in this incident, we do not agree with several of the Cal-OSHA findings and its characterization of some of the alleged violations as ‘willful.’”

Chevron at the time of the fire reported that one employee suffered a minor injury. About 200 local residents sought medical help, complaining of respiratory problems.

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