Chevron lit the northern California bubble on fire on Monday night with a blaze that lasted for hours. More than three hours later, there is no information available to area residents about why Chevron is on fire and what we are breathing.

Chevron representative Nigel Hearne does not know anything
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Diesel fuel leak? Chevron representatives (Nigel Hearne, great accent) have no idea how this fire happened. They are providing no information about the chemicals that may be present in the air.

While Chevron stammers and stumbles at the press conference, residents are filling up area hospitals with reports of breathing problems. Unfortunately, like the 1999 and 2007 fires, the information about health effects will not come out until after the fire-it could be weeks, possibly months.

Have no fear-the Bay Area Air Quality Management district, our local EPA, is on the scene (snicker). Global Community Monitor has long advocated for real time air monitoring and for regulators to own equipment for emergencies-like a fire. Yet, no information has been shared with the public.  Chevron promised the City of Richmond several years ago they would install a state of the art real time fenceline monitor system, similar to Valero and Conoco Phillips,  in return for a tax deal.  While Chevron has enjoyed several years of the tax deal, they have failed to install the system.

Some news reports cited environmentalists’ and community residents’ challenge of the Chevron modernization in 2008 as a possible reason why the fire is happening.

However, these news reports failed to take into consideration that Chevron wanted to do more than modernize-they wanted to expand so that they could process heavier crude oil-Canadian tar sands. Tar sands oil would bring more accidents and emissions.

For now, families are still reeling from a stressful night, people are recovering from trips to the hospital and we are all bracing for the increased cost at the pump.