Emails Raise Questions About Chevron’s Bay Area Oil Spill Response

Capital & Main

The morning after a quarter-inch hole in a pipeline owned by Chevron leaked petroleum fluids into the San Francisco Bay on February 9, Richmond Mayor Tom Butt struck an optimistic tone about the incident at the oil giant’s refinery.

“I think in the big picture it’s going to be OK,” Butt told one local press outlet.

On his blog several days later, Butt wrote the city had “dodged a bullet on what turned out to be a relatively small spill with no lingering effects.” In a city council meeting a week after the spill, he offered no thoughts when a councilor brought up the incident.

According to a unified command that included representatives from Chevron, the U.S. Coast Guard, the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife and Contra Costa County Health Services, the spill was upwards of 700 gallons, or five gallons a minute at its peak.

A factsheet from the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration says the kind of diesel that reportedly leaked from the pipeline is considered to be “one of the most acutely toxic oil types” and that “fish and invertebrates that come in direct contact with naturally dispersed and entrained diesel in the water column may be killed.”