February 20 2013

Energy Production & Safety: Explosions at the Richmond, California Chevron Refinery

Richmond Chevron Refinery Explosion

Everyday, urban residents around the world use energy without giving much thought as to where it comes from, how it is produced, and how safe it is to produce it. But on January 31, 2013, a series of explosions at the Richmond Chevron Refinery in Richmond, California raised important urban planning questions regarding the location of energy production sites and the safety of local residents.

Herein lies the tension: urban residents need energy, but in order to provide it in the current energy distribution system, energy must be produced and then transported from a centralized location. By the laws of the economies of scale, these centers are very large, and painstaking security measures must be taken to ensure the safety of those working in and living around these sites. So how can the various entities and institutions involved – cities, governments, regulatory bodies, community members, and the corporations themselves – work together to ensure safe, efficient production of energy to meet our daily needs?

For this most recent accident at the Richmond Chevron Refinery (and there have been several in the past), the California Division of Occupational Safety & Health fined Chevron $963,200 on 23 citations for “serious” violations. The city of Richmond has several pages on its website dedicated to providing city residents with information and news updates about ongoing investigations into the accident, and Chevron has set up a claims process through the city for residents who might have suffered medical and property expenses.

But the reality is that the Richmond Chevron Refinery isn’t going anywhere, and residents are much more concerned about their daily health. Some contend that the refinery doesn’t do enough to protect Richmond, a city of poorer, disadvantaged residents. It seems that the issue holds greater weight in the bigger picture of environmental justice.

Do you live anywhere near a major energy production site? What solutions have been implemented in your area to ensure the safety of local residents?

Credits: Images courtesy of fototaker.net. Data linked to sources.

Steven Chang

Steven Chang was a resident of the San Francisco Bay Area and held a B.A. in Urban Studies from the University of California, Berkeley. His interest in urban planning began in his hometown of Rowland Heights, California (near Los Angeles), when he noticed that his community, a predominantly ethnic suburb, was very different from other cities he had traveled to. He was very interested in every aspect of urban planning, especially in the way people influence and are influenced by the city fabric. He hoped to one day pursue a Masters of Urban Planning, focusing on economic development and housing. He was also very excited to bring the bustling activity of the San Francisco Bay Area to The Grid!

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, February 20th, 2013 at 9:36 am and is filed under Blogging Team, Energy, Engineering, Environment, Environmental Design, Government/Politics, Land Use, Social/Demographics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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