"We believe Chevron needs to be held accountable and to pay for the damage and disruption of lives it causes" said Bay Area attorney, Gerald Sterns.
"Twice now in the short span of but five years, we have another major blow out, explosion, fire and a huge spread of a large, fast moving, black soot smoke cloud, containing a potential health endangering or possible lethal mix of toxic chemicals.
News reports this morning and some findings from the environmental agencies in Contra Costa County, site of the Chevron eyesore facility in North Richmond, just on the shores of SF Bay, confirm that the fire originated in the worst possible location for potential health and air pollution damage – the heavy crude, diesel-like, near sludge black oil depository. We still do not know the full extent and content of the devil brew the blew out of the refinery last night, but experts on an NPR news special today reported that at the least, there is a mix of toxics that include sulphur dioxide, irritants and known cancer and other serious disease precursors. The crew of a sailing ship in the bay, not far off from the refinery reported last night, that it had to take down all its sails because they were covered in heavy black soot. How about that in the lungs of your elderly, frail, those with respiratory problems, children," asked Sterns.
Authorities issued an alarm alert that interrupted regular radio programs last night, announcing a “Shelter in Place” alert, to apply to large areas and thousands of people: bring in all children and animals; close all sources of outside air, incl. air conditioners, chimneys, flus; stuff wet towels in all cracks and other openings. Like a gas attack by an enemy.
The short term effects of this are already obvious: people flocking to emergency rooms with respiratory and other complaints; respiratory problem prone folks, such as asthmatics , put in even more severe distress. Foul smells and fall out of soot and smoke debris (refer again to comments about sailboat above). What about the long term? Known carcinogenic agents circulating in the air over a wide area, coming down eventually who knows where, or being breathed in by humans? Impact on the already serious issues of ozone destruction, air pollution, global warming?
This is intolerable and something must be done. This pollutant generating refinery is now over 100 years old. When it went in, it was out in an isolated, far from population center location, maybe made sense then. But today, it is literally in the middle of the huge Bay Area metroplex, and also located at a point on the bay shore (so the heavily laden tankers with zillions of gallons of crude oil in hulls can continue to ply the bay waters; until the next spill) where it gets the strong prevailing westerly winds, which can, and did in this case, blow the toxic cloud rapidly over even more populated areas.
The list is long and ugly: Exxon Valdez in Alaska; BP in the Gulf; the SF Bay spill of a couple of years ago; the earlier Chevron Richmond refinery fire in 2007, of which this is a replay; the recent break and long delayed reported the tar sands pipe (not the XL, thank goodness; so far that is still being held off) that badly polluted an upper Midwest river; and more.
Chevron is reported to have made over 10 billion dollars, or something in that area profit in the last quarter alone? There is only one way to get the attention of an environmentally polluting economic colossus such as this, and that is with a damage award. To cover present injuries and treatment, others as they develop and for a very large medical fund for long term health monitoring and care as needed for those exposed; and payments for the environmental damage as well, if that can be measured in any way.
No one person or even moderate sized group of people can take on Chevron legally to accomplish this. But a large class can. There needs to be a Class Action sto take this fight direct to Chevron and see to some recompense and accountability," said Sterns.
Our law firm represents only the seriously injured. There are no charges up front, all legal fees and expense are paid at the end of the day out of the class funds and those are set by the court, to ensure fairness.
(Bay Area attorney Gerald Sterns has handled many toxic smoke cases from his aviation practice, as well as the Oakland fire.)