At Supervisor Hahn’s Urging, Board Throws Support behind Torrance Refinery Reforms
Los Angeles, CA — Today, the Board of Supervisors passed a motion offered by Supervisor Janice Hahn to support the Torrance Refinery Safety Plan – a legislative package under consideration in the California legislature sponsored by State Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi. The Board threw its support behind four bills in the package that aim to increase safety at refineries across California and voted to send a five-signature letter to the SCAQMD supporting a proposed rule to ban the use of highly toxic modified hydrofluoric acid.
“Modified hydrofluoric acid is incredibly dangerous to the local community,” said Supervisor Hahn. “The refinery workers are skilled and careful—but accidents happen. The bottom line is that up until now, we have gotten lucky that there has not been a more serious, deadly incident.”
The Torrance Refinery has had several incidents in recent years that have alarmed community members and raised questions about safety at the refinery. In 2015, a massive explosion in the plant sent shrapnel and equipment flying through the air, only narrowly missing a tank containing modified hydrofluoric acid. The rupturing of that tank and the release of modified hydrofluoric acid would form a toxic cloud that could result in the deaths or injury of thousands of local residents and workers.
“All the safety measures you put in place, all the drills you perform, cannot be more beneficial than not having this chemical on the premises,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn.
“Grave questions have been raised about the safety of modified hydrofluoric acid which continues to be used in two local refineries,” said Supervisor Kuehl, the co-author of the motion and Governing Board member of the SCAQMD. “South Bay residents are counting on public officials to institute the safeguards needed to protect their health and safety. This action moves us one step closer to fulfilling that commitment to County residents.”
The Torrance refinery is one of only two refineries in California, the other being in Wilmington, that use modified hydrofluoric acid. Concerned Torrance residents attended today’s board meeting and offered testimony to the Board in support of the motion.
One longtime resident of Torrance, Isabel Balboa, testified at the meeting saying, “My family, like so many thousands of others, lives in the shadow of this refinery. This is a ray of light and hope for us. There are safer and economically viable alternatives that are used every single day by every other refinery in California.”
“The Torrance community is rightly concerned about the use of this chemical. Public opinion is pushing us toward banning this substance,” said Supervisor Hahn. “The question is not if but when.”
The motion supported 4 bills included in Muratsuchi’s Torrance Refinery Safety legislative package including AB 1646, AB 1647, AB 1648, and AB 1649. The Board also instructed the County Chief Executive Officer to send a five-signature letter to the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) expressing support of the proposed rule banning the use of modified hydrofluoric acid and encouraging the SCAQMD to expedite their rulemaking process. The motion passed with unanimous support from the Board.