The proposal, called the safety case system, could eventually
force refineries to adopt the safest technologies possible and
justify their ability to safely make gasoline, diesel and jet
fuel, and would emulate regulatory regimes in the United
Kingdom, Australia and Norway.
Board Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso said during a hearing on
Wednesday night that California could provide a laboratory for
proving the effectiveness of the safety case system for
regulating U.S. refineries, which reported 125 incidents
involving chemical releases in 2012.
"California could become the national testbed for promoting
refinery safety," Moure-Eraso said during a hearing at the
Richmond, California City Hall.
But the board's two other members clashed with staff and
Moure-Eraso in a vote on sending the recommendations to
California's governor and legislature.
"The goal is to make the report stronger in short order," said
CSB member Beth Rosenberg after she and fellow board member Mark
Griffon rejected Moure-Eraso's plea to adopt the proposal as
part of a second report from a probe into an August 6, 2012 fire
at Chevron Corp's Richmond refinery.
The fire sent 15,000 San Francisco Bay-area residents to
hospital with respiratory problems.
Griffon said work needed to be done to see if regulatory
agencies in California and Contra Costa County would be more
effective in enforcing the current rule-based regulatory system,
which is seen as setting minimum safety standards for refiners,
increasing the risk of explosions and fires.
Contra Costa County, which is home to four refineries, is
considered one of the strongest local regulators in the United
States. California is also seen as more aggressive in regulating
industry than many other states.
"We need to see if this model didn't work," Griffon said.
Former CSB Chairman John Bresland told the board it had yet to
prove the change in regulatory systems would lead to greater
"The CSB's safety case system falls short in this case,"
Bresland said. "There is no proof that the safety case system
would be better than California's current system."
Oil industry organizations criticized the proposal as
introducing sweeping changes that were unfamiliar in the United
States, leading to greater risk of accidents during such a
The CSB has no regulatory authority and acts only as an
investigator of chemical explosions and fires. The board makes
recommendations about improvements to industry and government
which can lead to changes in industrial practices and government
No fatalities were reported due to the August 6, 2012, fire,
which the CSB said in an April report was due to the failure of
a heavily corroded pipe that Chevron failed to replace or
By a 2-to-1 vote, the board directed its staff to further
research how to strengthen the current regulatory system in
California as well as more clearly delineate the strengths and
weaknesses of the safety case system.
(Editing by David Holmes)
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