Senator Mark Leno announced today that he is calling for a legislative hearing to look into California’s oil refineries. The special hearing, held by the Senate Select Committee on Bay Area Transportation which Senator Leno chairs, will look into the safety and reliability of California’s gasoline production system and its impacts on gas prices and the economy.
“The volatile spikes in gas prices and gas shortages in our state in recent weeks indicate serious problems with California refineries,” said Senator Leno, D-San Francisco. “I am concerned that refineries have no incentive for keeping their operations safe and fully functional because their profits increase greatly following any type of disruption, whether it is the consequence of a potentially deadly explosion or failed piping. Meanwhile, consumers are paying the price for these refinery errors, not only at the pumps, but also in the risks posed to public health and safety.”
Senator Leno’s hearing will investigate two main topics: system reliability for California’s refineries and its effect on the economy; and the state’s oversight process and role related to refinery worker safety. Topics in the hearing may include monitoring health and safety at the state’s 15 oil refineries, state compliance and enforcement at refineries, West Coast gasoline prices and how they may be manipulated, refinery capacity and its relationship to gas prices and the economy, and the Chevron Richmond fire investigation.
“Chevron’s announcement late yesterday that its Richmond crude oil unit that caught fire earlier this year will be closed for the remainder of the year could further complicate matters for California,” said Senator Leno. “Economists have estimated that a lengthy shutdown of that facility could slow the growth rate of the state’s economy by half a percentage point.”
The Senate Select Committee on Bay Area Transportation hearing will be held in November.