Residents protest Torrance oil refinery in wake of EPA safety report

The owners of the oil refinery in Torrance considered today their response to an EPA report that found numerous safety violations at the facility.

Among the findings, EPA inspectors last fall found broken equipment that remained disabled for weeks even though its purpose is to help contain any accidental release of toxic hydrofluoric acid. The probe also found that the plants required risk management plan understated the danger to the community from a fire or chemical release because of several errors and inaccuracies, the Daily Breeze reported.

Refinery managers say they use a modified form of the acid to make it safer, but industry critics and local activists have questioned whether it really is. Hydrofluoric acid is used in a refinery's alkylation unit to manufacture high-octane grades of gasoline.

Members of the Torrance City Council were scheduled Tuesday to discuss whether to support a resolution written by Councilman Tim Goodrich that seeks to phase out the use of the acid at the refinery. Only two California
refineries -- the one in Torrance and one Wilmington -- do not use a safer alternative to hydrofluoric acid, which forms a potentially lethal toxic cloud when released.

The county Board of Supervisors supports a similar resolution supporting a proposal by the South Coast Air Quality Management District to ban the chemical.

"The revelations detailed in the EPA report underscore how dangerous modified hydrofluoric acid is, which is why we need a transition to a safer alternative," Goodrich, who called the EPA report damning, said in remarks
reported by the Breeze.

The AQMD is scheduled to hold an all-day meeting Saturday at the Torrance Marriott to discuss several issues surrounding the refinery, including repeated electrical outages and equipment breakdowns that led to excessive
flaring and increased pollution.

Since PBF Energy took over the refinery from ExxonMobil last year, the plant has seen at least one crane collapse and at least two fires, according to the Breeze.

Torrance Fire Department Assistant Chief Steve Treskes said last week that since PBF assumed control of the refinery last July 1, firefighters have received reports of 97 incidents there and responded to about 30 of them, the
newspaper reported.

Firefighters responded to another equipment breakdown Tuesday caused by a power disruption that required an engine response and an unplanned flaring notification. A similar incident occurred last week, Treskes said.

The fire department has issued two violation notices to PBF since Jan. One was issued for a nuisance odor, the other for failing to provide timely notifications of an incident as required, Treskes said.

New Jersey-based PBF Energy has until April 27 to respond to the inspection findings. Jeff Dill, president of PBFs western division, says the company is reviewing the EPA report.

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