Federal Board Rejects Safety Recommendations Stemming From Chevron Refinery FireSource: San Jose Mercury News | 22 January 2014
In a move described by agency officials as highly unusual, a divided US Chemical Safety Board refused to endorse the centerpiece recommendation from its staff’s 115-page report on the massive Chevron refinery fire in 2012.
At the heart of the split, made public in a packed Richmond City Council chamber, was whether the system for regulating oil refineries should be overhauled to mirror the European model that focuses on continually reducing accident risks, as proposed in the staff report, or whether more emphasis should be placed on strengthening the current oversight system.
The safety board recommendation, which would force the industry to demonstrate that it is operating as safely as possible through written reports reviewed by regulators, has come under fire from industry, the scientific community, and labor and political interests. Many of the concerns center on whether the so-called safety case regime would add unnecessary costs, complexity, and uncertainty to the monitoring of oil refineries and detract from efforts to enhance local and state laws and resources.
“There may be more immediate benefits from beefing up the current system,” said Kim Nibarger, a health and safety specialist for the United Steelworkers. “We don’t want the perfect to be the enemy of the good.”