Federal Tesoro Inquiry Calls for Tighter Refinery Regulations

By John Ryan/KUOW

Federal investigators have closed the books on their inquiry into the worst industrial accident Washington state has seen in the past 50 years. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board is calling for widespread changes to oil refineries, including the Tesoro plant in Anacortes.

"U.S. Chemical Safety Board investigators inspect wreckage at the Tesoro-Anacortes refinery in 2010. Credit: Chemical Safety Board "The federal agency aims to prevent a repeat of the explosion that killed two women and five men there in 2010. Four years after that explosion rocked the town of Anacortes, federal investigators say the blast reflects industry-wide problems.

The safety board says a significant accident happens at an oil refinery somewhere in the United States about once every three days.

Beth Rosenberg is one of three members of the safety board:

For the Tesoro blast, the safety board blamed lax regulations, faulty industry standards, and low-quality steel in the equipment that failed.

Internal inspections and a state audit both failed to point out the severe corrosion in the machinery that later exploded. The safety board called for multiple improvements in the design, operation and regulation of refineries.

Tesoro issued a statement saying the company would take steps to address the recommendations even though it disagreed with much of the report -- especially where the report called Tesoro complacent about safety.

Photo: "U.S. Chemical Safety Board investigators inspect wreckage at the Tesoro-Anacortes refinery in 2010. Credit: Chemical Safety Board."

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