Public questions why report on refinery explosion took so long
The families and friends of the seven workers killed in the explosion at the Anacortes Tesoro Refinery in 2010 respond to the Chemical Safety Board report, asking why it took so long to find out if the accident could have been prevented.
Skagit Valley Herald
ANACORTES — Disappointment and frustration were some of the initial reactions from commenters who attended a public “listening session” on the Chemical Safety Board’s draft report presentation Thursday night on the fatal 2010 Tesoro Refinery explosion.
Part of the frustration was why the investigation took so long. The families and friends of the seven workers killed have wondered for nearly four years what happened that day and if it could have been prevented. The CSB presented its draft report Thursday in Anacortes High School’s Brodniak Hall.
After a presentation on the cause of the explosion and recommendations the board has for Tesoro and for industry, national and state regulators, the meeting was opened up for public comment on the report, which was released earlier the same day.
Kim Nibarger, a health and safety specialist for the United Steel Workers International Union, was one of many union refinery workers who was dismayed by the time the board took to produce a report and then in December, changing the night’s meeting from one where a vote would be taken to a community listening session.
“What we want now are some answers. We want a firm date that the Tesoro report will be voted on and approved. We want a confirmation of the location of that vote, and we would request that it be held here in Anacortes,” Nibarger said during the public hearing.
Disappointment was also expressed by CSB members.
“I must first say I am disappointed it’s taken so long to have some answers for all of you. I do however feel at this point that the most important thing to make sure of is that this report is beyond reproach,” said board member Mark Griffon.
Steve Garey, a machinist and president of the United Steel Workers Local 12-591, said members of the union will take a closer look at the report and will submit comments.
He said due to the political climate, the sweeping reforms recommended by the report might take a long time to enact. He proposed making a short-term and longterm list that would identify more achievable and beneficial results that could be found in the short term.
The 158-page report notes problems in the facility’s safety culture, industry standards and state and federal oversight of the industry helped lead to a catastrophic rupture of a heat exchanger at the refinery, which leaked and ignited hydrogen and naptha, a flammable petroleum solvent.
A staff summary of the report is available at goskagit.com, while the full report is available atcsb.gov.
The CSB will collect comments for 45 days, said Board Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso. He said after that time, the board will take a vote to finalize the investigation and recommendations.
“When you deal with immediate stakeholders, the employees, they have information that can come out at any time,” Moure-Eraso said.
Garey also said the refineries should be required to do what they already know they should be doing regarding the safety process. For example, Garey said any leaks or losses of primary containment of hazardous substances should be publicly disclosed.
Across the industry, owner-operators — the refineries themselves — maintain the responsibility of providing a safe workplace, he said.
“They’re not doing what they should be doing often enough, and that’s why we have seven killed at Tesoro,” Garey said.
U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen noted his disappointment in the report’s delay. Larsen and other members of the Washington delegation have been pressing the board to complete the report for years, he said in a news release.
“This long overdue report tells us this accident was not only tragic, it was preventable,” Larsen said. “It is totally unacceptable that Tesoro management allowed non-standard safety practices to become routine,” he said.
Ryan Anderson, a maintenance employee at the Tesoro Anacortes Refinery and lead negotiator for the local, reiterated the disappointment felt by the workers at the delay in seeing the report and the further delay of seeing it finalized.
“Seven families were devastated, our membership was devastated, our communities were devastated. For almost four years now we’ve all waited for a factual accounting of how this could have happened. For almost four years now, we’ve waited for a final CSB report. Yet here we are, closer yes, but still waiting,” Anderson said.