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Thousands join lawsuit against Chevron following California refinery fire

28 November 2012

Bay Area lawyers said over 4,800 more residents, workers, and visitors have joined a lawsuit stemming from an August explosion and fire at Chevron’s refinery in Richmond. This new suit, filed on November 27 in Contra Costa County Superior Court, coincides with the filing of a suit made by the original nine plaintiffs, including three children.

The lawsuits allege the refinery – with a history of at least 19 fires, spills and explosions since 1989 – forced thousands of people to seek hospital treatment for respiratory problems after a toxic plume from the refinery endangered public health. Chevron also is accused of delaying public health warnings around the refinery after the explosion. The suit seeks damages and injunctive relief, among other damages.

Chevron spokesman Sean Comey told NBC: "Because Chevron USA established a claims process to compensate community members for medical and property-loss claims following the...incident, we do not believe any lawsuits are necessary, and we will defend them vigorously." 

Comey added that Chevron "continues to cooperate fully with investigating agencies to understand root causes of the fire and learn from them, and we look forward to repairing damaged equipment and getting back to producing a full quantity of products on which California depends." 

In a prior email, company spokesman Derek Jansen said that 23,700 claims had been filed since the end of October.

The refinery fire erupted after a hydrocarbon leak was found on a crude unit pipe. The suit alleges that Chevron continued operating the crude unit despite the "obvious dangers" involved.

The fire remains under investigation by federal, state and regional investigators, including the US Chemical Safety Board.

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