New Chevron Oil Spill Report Doesn’t Pass the Smell Test

Oil sheen in Richmond along the shoreline

In early 2021, Richmond residents called Baykeeper’s pollution hotline to report a strange sheen on the Bay and a noxious smell in the air. Turns out, they had discovered an oil spill at Chevron’s loading dock. Unfortunately, Chevron itself was unaware that its oil was polluting the Bay until locals reported it.

In the hours and days that followed, Chevron set up a single boom that didn’t contain the oil—the oil’s spread was evident from our drone aerial footage. Chevron also failed to make use of basic containment strategies, such as skimmer boats and absorbent pads to collect the oil.

A local beach was closed to the public due to the oil washing up on shore, and the toxic leak possibly impacted sensitive eelgrass beds nearby that serve as important habitat for fish and wildlife.

Partly motivated by public outrage over Chevron’s ineffective response effort, Contra Costa County Health Services hired a contractor, AcuTech, to investigate the spill and Chevron’s actions. Now, two years later, AcuTech has finally released its report—and they gave Chevron a glowing review. AcuTech’s unreasonably delayed report left many of the public’s questions unanswered and also neglected to assess the most important aspects of the spill: the oil’s toxicity and its impact on the Bay.

Digging deeper, we learned that AcuTech is not a neutral third party, as was required by local laws governing refinery investigations. According to their website, AcuTech holds a number of contracts with Chevron and at least 24 other major oil companies. In fact, out of all the contractors that bid, only AcuTech had an existing financial relationship with Chevron. Despite this, AcuTech failed to publicly disclose their conflict of interest and was hired for the job.

Chevron has faced few consequences for the spill. “The refinery filed a legally required report last year, and in response the state issued Chevron a penalty amounting to $70,000,” as Baykeeper executive director Sejal Choksi-Chugh pointed out, “That means they paid less than $90 per gallon for the oil they spilled. That’s not even a slap on the wrist, it’s a fist bump between the agencies and the Chevron execs. Of course the public was angry, and the City Council required this independent investigation. It’s just unfortunate AcuTech was not actually independent and let Chevron off the hook.”

The people of Richmond, and of the Bay Area, deserve better. That’s why Baykeeper and our community partners are demanding full transparency and accountability from Chevron. If you want to share your concerns and tell our local agencies to force Chevron to be a better neighbor on the Bay, you can submit comments to using the contact information, below, before the August 28 deadline:

Email: Hazmat.Arpteam[at]cchealth[dot]org

Mail: Attn: Michael Dossey, Contra Costa Health Hazardous Materials Programs, 4585 Pacheco Blvd., Suite 100, Martinez, CA 94553.