What About El Segundo?

Posted by Dave Fratello on Friday, August 10th, 2012 at 11:17pm.

There's a coastal town with million-dollar houses somewhere in California, with a big, old oil refinery right next door.

Residents learned not to think much about the refinery, or worry about it, until one day – this week – when they had no choice.

Richmond refinery fire. Photo by Jef Poskanzer
That's when Chevron's Richmond refinery suffered several explosions and a ghastly, 2-day fire.

Thousands of nearby residents were ordered to hide inside with doors and windows closed, so as to avoid breathing potentially toxic gases.

Reportedly, more than 1,700 people showed up in area hospitals with respiratory problems and burning eyes from the smoke. One told a reporter after seeing a doctor, "They told me I'm not going to die, but it sure feels pretty serious."

That was in Richmond. But now the question in Manhattan Beach is: What if?

What if there were similar problems at Chevron's El Segundo refinery, our own 101-year-old neighbor? (Richmond is "El Primero," the former Standard Oil company's first refinery; El Segundo is the second one Standard Oil built in California, hence the refinery's and the city's name.)

The massive, 951-acre facility next door to us is the state's largest refinery, processing 279,000 barrels per day – about 15 percent more per day than El Primero prior to the recent fire. We've toured it; it's an impressive and constantly updated facility. For obvious reasons, they're committed to operating safely.

Still, we have some questions for Chevron. Not just about a possible Richmond-type fire, but also the familiar series of questions we hear from people looking to buy into MB. They wonder more about the long-term health effects, if any, of having a refinery for a neighbor. If there are notable risks, we're unaware of what they are. We'd prefer not to have to answer these questions with dumb silence.

So we'll pose some questions to Chevron. Let us know here in comments or by private email to Dave (mbwatcher@gmail.com) if you've got questions (or information) to share or discuss. And when we get a response from Chevron, we'll share it.
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