Fluoride Action Network

Torrance council called ‘spineless’ for tepid stand on oil refinery safety

Source: The Daily Breeze | March 30th, 2017 | By Nick Green
Industry type: Oil Refineries

The Torrance City Council sidestepped passionate pleas for a hard-line stand against the city’s problem-plagued refinery early Wednesday, adopting a resolution that supports safety improvements at the plant but does not endorse a phase-out of dangerous hydrofluoric acid.

The unanimous vote came after hours of testimony in the packed council chambers from residents, many who acknowledged they are frightened about ongoing safety and operational issues at the refinery owned by PBF Energy.

Councilman Tim Goodrich decried the weak message elected officials had sent ahead of a Saturday hearing by the South Coast Air Quality Management District board to address the series of equipment failures and excessive flaring at the refinery.

In what was a largely symbolic resolution anyway, Goodrich and Councilman Kurt Weideman wanted tougher language that specifically mentioned the threat from the potentially fatal acid and called for its eventual removal from the plant.

“This resolution that is in front of us now is a Milquetoast resolution and it essentially maintains the status quo,” Goodrich said before casting his vote for the alternative resolution written and favored by staff. “However, it is better than nothing.”

The watered-down resolution merely indicates the council supports regulatory efforts to seek a “safer catalyst” to hydrofluoric acid; the AQMD has proposed adopting a rule by year’s end that would phase out the use of the chemical.

The decision was a win for PBF, which is furiously lobbying against a ban or phase-out of HF.

Fearing for their jobs, a stream of refinery workers spoke Tuesday to the council. And the company is hosting an invitation-only meeting today for AQMD and other officials “to provide factual data and details” regarding the refinery’s use of modified hydrofluoric acid, or MHF, and offset information provided by “third parties.”

Some on the panel appeared more interested in criticizing the “misinformation” they said was circulating in the community from refinery critics, much to the anger of the Torrance Refinery Action Alliance, which supported a stronger stance.

“Last night the city of Torrance made the reckless and foolhardy decision to embrace modified hydrofluoric acid with loving arms,” a statement on the group’s Facebook page reads.

“They voted down Goodrich’s proposal to support a phase-out of MHF,” it added. “The spineless Torrance City Council are lying prone, licking the catalyst dust off the refinery’s feet. But they don’t represent the will of the South Bay community and they don’t get the last word.”

The action came hours after an EPA report was released publicly outlining issues with broken hydrofluoric acid safety equipment, poor refinery management and lack of operational oversight that backed up many of TRAA’s claims.

EPA officials are scheduled to discuss their findings at the 9 a.m. Saturday meeting at the Torrance Marriott.

North Torrance resident Nadine Levine, who moved with her family into a new home near the refinery earlier this year, said she and her husband knew about threats from issues ranging from earthquakes to expansive soils, but no one mentioned the potential danger from HF.

“The one thing that we did not know when we moved in is that we are living in a kill zone,” she said. “Three days after we moved in there was an explosion. It has changed everything for us.

“We can’t move out of our house,” Levine added. “I keep wondering every night, what the hell did I do to my family?

• Original article online at http://www.dailybreeze.com/business/20170329/torrance-council-called-spineless-for-tepid-stand-on-oil-refinery-safety