“Air board kills regulation of dangerous refinery acid in favor of oil industry plan” – Los Angeles Times

Tony Barboza

ToRC-LATimes
Michael Owen Baker / Los Angeles Times

Steve Goldsmith of the Torrance Refinery Action Alliance said air board members “caved into the pressure by the oil industry” with a decision that “leaves South L.A. County residents exposed to catastrophic danger.”

Air quality regulators on Friday killed a years-long push for stronger regulation of a dangerous acid used at two South Bay refineries that has frightened many neighbors, voting instead to accept a voluntary, oil industry pledge to enhance safety measures.

The decision by the South Coast Air Quality Management District governing board came just one week after the two refineries, in Torrance and Wilmington, offered a way to avoid tougher restrictions. They sent letters offering to install improved safety systems in the coming years if regulators ended their pursuit of a rule or agreement to reduce the risk of a catastrophic release of modified hydrofluoric acid, also referred to as MHF.

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“Air board kills regulation of dangerous refinery acid in favor of oil industry plan”

“Refinery Explosions Raise New Warnings About Deadly Chemical” – NPR

by Susan Phillips

SouthPhiladelphiaRefineryExplosion
Click image to watch a terrifying video of the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery explosion on Friday, June 21, 2019. Note object being hurled from the explosion to the right. With the PES refinery closing, now Torrance CA has the infamous distinction of having the densest population around an HF refinery. The video is from 6abc/WPVI−TV Action News in Philadelphia.

“How many times do we try this before we actually get a release that kills 1,000 people? . . . People should never have been allowed to live this close to these refineries. It’s just unconscionable to have allowed that to happen.”
~ Dr. Ron Koopman, conductor of the 1986 “Goldfish” hydrogen fluoride release tests in the Nevada desert

In the predawn hours of June 21, explosions at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery in South Philadelphia shook houses, sent fireballs into the air and woke up nearby residents.

“Three loud explosions, one after the other, boom, boom boom!” says David Masur, who lives about two miles from the plant and has two young kids. “It’s a little nerve-wracking.”

Masur watched as the refinery spewed black smoke above the city, easily visible from his home. But what he didn’t know at the time was just how close he and his family came to getting exposed to hydrogen fluoride, one of the deadliest chemicals used by refiners and other industrial manufacturers.

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Refinery Explosions Raise New Warnings About Deadly Chemical

Listen to the companion interview with NPR’s Susan Phillips by clicking here

“This Chemical Kills. Why Aren’t Regulators Banning It?” – New York Times Opinion Piece

by Daniel Horowitz, an organic chemist and former managing director of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board.

A fiery refinery blast in Philadelphia could be just the beginning.

Last month’s spectacular explosions at a large Philadelphia oil refinery complex injured five workers, terrorized city residents and drove up gasoline prices. But the impact could have been vastly worse had the explosions triggered a release from the refinery’s huge inventory of toxic hydrogen fluoride — up to 420,000 pounds’ worth, according to information the company filed with the Environmental Protection Agency in 2017. That disaster, had it occurred amid the chaos on the morning of June 21, would have imperiled hundreds of thousands of people living within a few miles of the plant. …

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This Chemical Kills. Why Aren’t Regulators Banning It?

1986 Hydrofluoric Acid Release Test

Video of the 1986 “Goldfish” Release Test of hydrofluoric acid (HF) shows the formation and spread of a ground-hugging toxic cloud. In the test carried out by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory research scientist Dr. Ronald R. Koopman, 8,300 lbs. of HF were released within 2 minutes. 100% of the acid became airborne in a dense, ground-hugging cloud of deadly HF. Two miles downwind, the HF cloud had more than twice the lethal concentration. Consider that each of the two settler tanks at the Torrance Refinery holds 50,000 lbs. of HF — six times more than the 1986 “Goldfish” Release Test.

Compare these “Goldfish” test results to the large-scale accidental release of the vastly safer alternative sulfuric acid at the Tesoro Refinery in Martinez, California, on February 12, 2014.

While the Torrance and Wilmington Valero refineries use Modified Hydrofluoric Acid (MHF) with 6-10% sulfolane to reduce volatility, the amount is far too little to prevent a toxic cloud, a fact that has been confirmed by the AQMD.

Click the image above to watch the video and click the title below to read the 1988 Los Angeles Times article on the test:
Experts Warn of Lethal Risk Posed by Acid in L.A. Refineries

A Rule 1410 Performance Standard to Protect the Community

TRAABy the Torrance Refinery Action Alliance Science Advisory Panel

A Performance Standard Must Be Designed to Protect the Community, Not Tailored to What the Refineries Are Able to Meet with Enhanced Mitigation

Executive Summary

A Performance Standard, with hydrogen fluoride (HF) phase-out if it cannot be met, has become the central approach adopted by the South Coast Air Quality Management District Staff for either a regulation or a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Valero in Wilmington and PBF’s Torrance Refining Company, the only two refineries in California that use HF. SCAQMD welcomes community input, and the TRAA Science Advisory Panel of six South Bay scientists and engineers is providing expert professional advice with A Rule 1410 Performance Standard to Protect the Community. Its three parts are: 1) A Benchmark, which must be met to ensure the community remains safe if a major HF release occurs, 2) Release Scenarios, which could be caused by Earthquakes, Accidents, or Terrorists (EAT), and 3) Ground rules for the refineries’ attempt to Demonstrate by analysis, modeling, and testing that they can meet the Benchmark. Interim measures are also specified to increase community protection until HF is phased out.

The Performance Standard is summarized below and given with full rationales in the following sections.

  • BENCHMARK TO PROTECT THE COMMUNITY
    The general population, including susceptible individuals, shall not experience “irreversible or other serious, long-lasting adverse health effects, or an impaired ability to escape,” as proscribed by Acute Exposure Guideline Level 2 (AEGL 2). All points from the refineries’ fenceline and beyond, shall not exceed any of the AEGL 2 threshold concentrations for exposure durations of 10 minutes, 30 minutes, 60 minutes, 4 hours, and 8 hours.
  • RELEASE SCENARIO
    A rupture of any of the refinery’s HF Containment Subsystems releasing the entire amount of HF: 1) in any duration from 5 seconds to 4 hours or, 2) from the break of any size subsystem pipe.
  • DEMONSTRATION BY ANALYSIS & MODELING
    Only passive mitigation measures, defined by the EPA as “equipment, devices, or technologies that function without human, mechanical, or other energy input,” shall be allowed in the demonstration attempt. In accordance with the EPA’s RMP Guidance for Offsite Consequence Analysis for worst-case releases, active mitigation measures such as water spray shall not be allowed because they can be deactivated by the same calamitous event that causes the rupture.

    No proprietary data shall be allowed in the analysis or modeling. If after six months the refineries can show they have a creditable plan that can meet the Benchmark, three years shall be allowed for the refineries to carry out a full-scale experimental demonstration to validate their analysis and modeling. Failure of the modeling or experimental verification shall mean all HF shall be removed from the refinery grounds within four years from the initial approval of Rule 1410.
  • INTERIM ENHANCED MITIGATION
  1. To protect the public from HF releases in the interim, the refineries shall enhance their mitigation system as much as feasible as determined by the SCAQMD.
  2. The refineries shall have a SCAQMD-approved emergency plan in place within six months, and then institute it, at their expense, to remedy the shocking lack of medicine and facilities to treat victims of a major HF release.
  3. The refineries shall certify within six months, to the satisfaction of SCAQMD, that their operations are safe from a cyber-attack.
  4. The refineries shall demonstrate within six months that they have financial resources in place — through liability insurance, bonds, or corporate resources — to cover claims against them from 15,000 deaths (the estimated fatalities in the 1987 Bhopal, India catastrophe, which released a similar amount of toxic chemical found in one Torrance refinery settler tank). Bankruptcy is not an acceptable response.

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TRAA Video – MHF Must Be Eliminated from Refineries to Keep the Community Safe

SettingTheRecordStraightNo1-2
Experts testify on the danger of hydrofluoric acid and the lack of preparedness in response to a major release.

Click the image above to watch TRAA’s short six-minute video of experts testifying on the extreme health and safety danger from a major release of hydrofluoric acid.

View all of the TRAA Videos by clicking here.

TRAA Community Response at the June 22 SCAQMD Refinery Committee Meeting

TRAAPresented by TRAA Member Cliff Heise:

We’re here because two refineries in the South Bay use massive quantities of one of the world’s most dangerous industrial chemicals, “hydrogen fluoride.” An additive touted by refineries for decades as the community’s primary safeguard has been unmasked as completely ineffective. As Congressmember Ted Lieu has stated, the community has been “hoodwinked.” Elimination of hydrogen fluoride is the only measure that will ensure community safety.

Performance Standards

The AQMD has adopted a Performance Standard approach. If the refineries fail to demonstrate that they can protect the public from a major release, then hydrogen fluoride must be phased out.

A Performance Standard Must Be Designed to Protect the Community, Not Tailored to What the Refineries Are Able to Meet with Enhanced Mitigation
We respectfully implore the Refinery Committee to give direction to Staff to create a Performance Standard to protect the community.

Continue reading “TRAA Community Response at the June 22 SCAQMD Refinery Committee Meeting”