Deadly MHF: David v. Goliath

By Steve Goldsmith, TRAA


The campaign to remove Hydrogen Fluoride (HF) from two South Bay refineries took a new turn at the Feb. 1 Southern Calif. Air Quality Management (SCAQMD) Board meeting. Been following this David-and-Goliath baLle? Then you know HF, or the refineries’ ineffective scam version “MHF,” could kill or severely injure tens of thousands in south Los Angeles County.

Sierra Club and staff spoke out for a Rule to phase out MHF. Insightful and passionate comments followed a shocking and devastating report by AQMD staff.

  1. Revelation of largely unreported 10 MHF leaks in 20 months at the refineries.
  2. Conclusive data showing little difference between MHF and HF in terms of their killing capacity.
  3. Capacity for MHF to kill miles away from a large release.

Speakers from Torrance Refinery Action Alliance (TRAA), which Sierra Club is actively helping, detailed many governmental bodies including six neighborhood councils in the Environmental Justice communities of Wilmington, Harbor Gateway, and San Pedro, as well as Redondo, Hermosa and Manhattan Beach. Special thanks to Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) for organizing a great turn out and Liberty Hill Foundation for funding transportation.

Adding to the growing voices for a “Rule to Phase Out” Representatives of environmental organizations like the Environmental Defense Fund, National Resource Defense Council, CBE, Communities for a Safe Environment, and LA County Department of Health, each addressed different aspects of the danger of MHF, the inability of the community to evacuate or respond to a catastrophic release, and the availability of safer alternatives. Especially shocking were the deaths of workers worldwide from HF that Dr. Sally Hayati detailed.

The refineries led a chorus of calls for a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in 90 days which would keep HF with increased mitigation. Board member McCallon made a motion for the refinery position. Board Chairman Dr. William A. Burke rejected that idea and moved that the staff come back with a recommendation in 90 days – Rule or MOU. Nine votes favored Burke’s motion, only four votes supported the refineries’ position.

“Can we handle a large release of MHF? The data says no.” Dr. Parker, Chair AQMD Refinery Committee. It’s not safe for workers/residents, cannot be made safe, safer alternatives will not close refineries.

MHF has got to go!

Contact: Board of SCAQMD 21865 Copley Dr Diamond Bar 91765 Or City of LA C/o Mayor Garcetti 200 N. Spring St. LA 90012. Councilmember Buscaino

Urge elected officials to write the AQMD. Sent letter already? We can suggest other actions, Contact

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