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.

Threshold to Protect the Community

Astoundingly, the refineries advocate allowing “irreversible or other serious, long-lasting adverse health effects” in their proposed threshold to protect the community. This is unconscionable and should shock everyone.

We respectfully implore you to direct the Staff to reject this shameful proposal from the refineries.

Release Scenarios

Both the refineries and the AQMD Staff envision HF releases where pipes break, but limit them to small one- and two-inch-diameter pipes. The February 18, 2015 explosion at the Torrance refinery hurled a 40-ton object at the settler tanks that nearly ripped off far larger pipes. All of the HF would have been released in less than a minute.

We respectfully implore you to direct the Staff to include breaks in any size pipe, no matter what the size.

Ground Rules

We agree all mitigation measures should be immediately implemented while the refineries transition to a vastly safer catalyst. However, for the ultimate test to determine whether HF can remain indefinitely, it’s crucial to allow the refineries only Passive Mitigation in their attempt to show a safe threshold can be met in the face of a major HF release.

Passive Mitigation is defined by the EPA as “equipment, devices, or technologies that function without human, mechanical, or other energy input.” Measures such as water curtains, or rapid-evacuation systems would not be considered passive mitigation.

There are compelling reasons that the EPA Risk Management Plans allows only passive mitigation in determining the worst-case releases of toxic chemicals:

  • Calamitous events that can cause major toxic chemical release — large earthquakes, accidental or deliberate explosions, or fire — would also likely incapacitate active mitigation systems.
  • Active mitigation is prone to intentional acts of disengagement as part of an onsite attack or offsite-based cyber-attack.
We respectfully implore you to give the strongest possible direction to the Staff to allow only passive mitigation in determining if HF can stay. Common sense tells us that active mitigation systems cannot be counted on to protect the community.

Thank you. And now, with five minutes that Sierra Club has generously ceded to TRAA, we would like to show you the latest video in  TRAA’s series of Public Service Announcement videos.


Shockingly, the Refinery Committee ignored pleas from the community and recommendations from its own staff and voted 3 to 2 to direct staff to create MOUs rigged to allow the refineries to pass an easy minor-leak scenario: watch.  Refinery Committee Chair and City of Highland Mayor Pro Tem Larry McCallon made the motion and was joined by City of Wildomar Council Member Ben Benoit and Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett in supporting it. Refinery Committee Vice Chair and Rolling Hills Estates Mayor Judy Mitchell and Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn voted against it.

The video of the June 22 SCAQMD Refinery Committee Meeting can be viewed hereand the meeting agenda and AQMD Staff’s presentation charts can be viewed here.