By Steve Dillow, Group Special Projects Chair
Much has happened concerning the Torrance Refinery and its continued use of hydrofluoric acid (HF or MHF) in the last few months. On the second anniversary of the major explosion, the Torrance Refinery Action Alliance (TRAA), supported by the Sierra Club and others, held a major rally and march to the refinery. Despite a steady rain, about 500 people took part – this in a city that never has protests or marches. Coincidentally, on the same morning there was yet another fire at the refinery.
On February 17, Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi introduced a series of bills to phase out MHF and otherwise make the refinery safer. On March 8, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a motion by Janice Hahn calling for a ban of MHF, in a letter to AQMD and the State Legislature.
On March 28, the EPA released preliminary findings about its inspection of the refinery. It found numerous safety violations, especially regarding in its handling of MHF.
That evening, the city held a Refinery Workshop in which several hundred citizens gathered in support of a city resolution to require the refinery to phase out MHF from their process. Dr. Sally Hayati of the TRAA spoke of the dangers: “It’s not just the corrosive burns from the acid …, but it is also a systemic poison by virtue of the fluoride. Ions can get absorbed through your skin and your bloodstream, damage your organs, stop your heart, suffocate you — kill you.”
Despite that EPA report, 500 letters to the council, and dozens of speakers urging a yes, the city voted down the proposal, and instead adopted a watered-down substitute, merely saying they would to go along with the AQMD’s rules.
On April 1, the SCAQMD held a daylong hearing about the refinery and its own proposed rule 1410 to ban MHF. It was preceded by a press conference with Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, County Supervisor Janice Hahn, the two Torrance councilmen who supported the ban (Tim Goodrich and Kurt Weiderman), the mayor, and representatives from TRAA and FLARE. At the hearing there were presenta-tions by the AQMD, CalEPA and other state agencies, the federal EPA, local agencies, and local representatives. Then over one hundred members of the public gave their comments.
On April 4, there was another MHF leak to the refinery, large enough to set off sensors, but not enough to be reported to the AQMD. There was lots of news coverage of both the city council workshop and the AQMD hearing, from the Daily Breeze, LA Times, all the TV networks, and KPCC.