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No major pollution upgrades expected at refinery
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RICHMOND  (AP) — Chevron does not plan to increase production at its fire-damaged Richmond refinery after repairs are made, allowing it to forego requirements to install the newest clean-air technologies, the company said.

A section of the refinery was damaged in an Aug. 6 fire, which sent a cloud of black smoke into the air and spurred thousands to seek medical treatment. The cause of the fire was a leaky, decades-old pipe that failed due to corrosion.

In documents filed last week, Chevron told the Bay Area Air Quality Management District it would repair — not replace — its existing equipment, which means the company will not be forced to adopt the industry's most advanced pollution equipment, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (

Still, the company said it will voluntarily cut air pollution emissions and replace about one-third of the facility's potentially leaky valves and fittings.

"All repairs and replacement equipment and materials will meet or exceed applicable industry standards and codes," Nigel Hearne, the refinery's general manager, said in the filings.

Federal law dictates that refinery owners must install the best available pollution technology in use worldwide — but only when companies make large-scale changes to a facility.

By choosing to replace older equipment rather than upgrade it, many oil companies are able to sidestep the pollution control upgrade requirement.

Chevron's decision comes after the Richmond City Council and air district passed resolutions calling for more advanced technologies to be installed.

Gayle McLaughlin, the city's mayor, told the newspaper that Chevron should do better than the minimum required.

"They should be using this opportunity to build much further along in terms of reducing emissions," she said.

Chevron has estimated the damaged unit in the refinery could be back online as early as January.