Torrance Refinery

Torrance Refinery

The South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) is presently addressing safety at the refinery – as it should.  It is the expert regulatory agency that addresses air quality in the region.  The SCAQMD has a team of unbiased chemists and other experts on its staff.  We can expect that they will address the issue professionally, ignoring rhetorical misinformation, and we look forward to its findings.

For more than 2 years I have been advising folks that the mayor and city council has very little power to police and regulate the refinery as it pertains to hydrofluoric acid.

In the 1990s the city brought a lawsuit under a theory of nuisance that was aimed at those very subjects.  The case was litigated for many years at the cost of well more than $1 million of tax payer money.  The result was all of the safety measures that were put into place. (Way too long to list).  

To make a simple comparison, the city cannot just create a law to close or get rid of an ongoing business that does not violate local, state or federal laws. There is no ability to create “an executive order” to do it either. 

If we could, certain business would have disappeared years ago. If we attempted to do so, we would put our city at risk of protracted, expensive  litigation with little to no hope of success.

There are, however, countless state and federal regulators that may have the ability.  One of which is the SCAQMD.  And, perhaps, the state assembly, senate, governor and/or federal authorities can do something.  We will see. 

But, if they do have such power, I wonder why they haven’t exercised it as of yet?

We have heard all of the sound bites and read the strong letters but, again, why has nothing occurred?  It really demonstrates that there is no easy fix.  Again, if there was a fix it would have been done years – if not decades – ago.

Some say there have been more incidents at the refinery and that demonstrates there is a safety issue.  I’m not entirely sure about that either. I’ve lived in Torrance for 30 years – not very far from the refinery – and I can’t quantify an increase in incidents.

It may be the result of more requirements of the notification process.  Perhaps it is because citizens are more vigilant.  Maybe the alert process works to a degree.  Maybe it’s because the media reports it more often.  It may be because of the advent of social media getting the word out!  

Just know that myself, my colleagues on the council and the city staff have spent countless hours working with all of the agencies that can provide a level of control – while listening to the voices of folks with concerns about safety at the refinery.

Meanwhile we are also concerned for the 1,100 or so folks who are employed at TRC – many of whom live in our city.  We are also mindful of the effect TRC has on the regional economy.

It is a balancing act for sure.  But, the safety of our community is always our primary mission and goal.  Anyone who thinks or says otherwise is sadly wrong.

For detailed information, I encourage you to look at all of the information on the city’s website – https://www.torranceca.gov/government/city-manager/refinery-information

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