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CALIFORNIA | PREVIEW / Some of the Business and
Economic Events Happening This Week

Tosco to Get Results of Safety Audit on Refinery That Suffered Fire

April 27, 1999|Times Staff and Wire Reports

Tosco Corp., the nation's fifth-largest oil refiner, said it's awaiting the results of a safety audit due today before deciding whether to restart an oil refinery near San Francisco. Tosco shut its Avon refinery March 2 at the request of the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors after a fire killed four workers.

The closure of the refinery, which accounts for about 15% of Tosco's capacity, was blamed in part for a 33% decrease in the company's first-quarter earnings and was also expected to hurt second-quarter profit.

A preliminary safety audit released by Arthur D. Little Co. last week found that some employees said they were pressured to perform unsafe operations after job cuts left poorly trained managers in charge. The final report is to be delivered today at a county meeting.

The shutdown, in addition to problems at other state refineries, higher crude prices on the world market and other factors, helped cause a spike in gasoline prices in California between February and early April. The higher prices, which have since slipped back, sparked the ire of state legislators, who are planning hearings on the issue Wednesday in Sacramento.

Testimony at the joint hearing of the state Senate committees on energy and transportation is expected from oil company executives, gas station owners, industry experts and state officials, including Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer, who recently expanded an investigation into gas prices.

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