"Events like the April 2 Tesoro explosion [in Anacortes, WA, which killed 7 workers], as well as many harrowingly close calls, occur more often at the nation’s 148 refineries than is widely known. While public and government attention focuses on singularly catastrophic events, such as the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, problems quietly fester at the factories that refine the nation’s fuels — labyrinthine complexes full of hazardous chemicals that are plagued by often-preventable accidents, putting workers at risk and endangering nearby communities.
Documents reviewed by the Center for Public Integrity, along with interviews of top safety officials and refining industry insiders, confirm an array of contributing factors ranging from haphazard enforcement to resistance from a politically influential industry. An easily manipulated regulatory system allows companies to challenge citations for years and postpone mandated fixes. Despite calls for change, some refineries still run equipment to failure rather than maintaining it."