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AQMD Reveals Proposal for MHF Ban

The AQMD has revealed its plans for Rule 1410 to ban the use of Modified HydroFluoric (MHF) acid at oil refineries. The proposal will officially be presented at the Saturday, April 28 meeting, but it is available to view on the AQMD website now. There are two options to ban MHF under consideration. Option A gives the refineries five years to transition away from HF/MHF alkylation. Option B gives the refineries six to eight years, depending on the results of a technology assessment of alternate alkylation techniques. While we’d prefer a three year transition (as recommended by experts), supporting Option A looks like the best bet for banning MHF.

Support Option A – with a Four Year Transition

Option B gives the refineries too much wiggle room. Past experience has shown that the refinery will use this time to try to overturn Rule 1410. We need to stop that from happening. Let’s urge the AQMD to pursue Option A but let’s hold them to a transition time of four years. This is already a dangerously long transition time. The refineries have had three decades to study alternation alkylation technologies from sulfuric acid to ionic liquids. We’ve had three accidents that almost released MHF to the community in that time. How much longer can we go without an MHF catastrophe? Without an earthquake? Without human error? It’s already been far too long.

The contact form below will send your new message to every member of the SCAQMD board at once. You can use the sample message in the comment field below. Please, personalize your letter so that it stands out to the AQMD committee – mention your friends and family at risk in the South Bay. And of course, you can call or send a letter to the board with the contact information here. Keep up the fight! You’ve pushed us close to our goal – but we’re not there yet!

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MHF Danger Zones

Public Safety Warning
Torrance (ToRC) refinery: Representation of the ground-hugging acid cloud from 50,000 lb. of MHF acid very nearly released during the 2015 explosion. The (slight) wind that day was to the west. Calm days are the worst case scenario, as it means a denser acid cloud. Much of the county is at risk.
Valero-Wilmington Danger Zone
Wilmington (Valero) refinery: EPA Worst Case Guidelines allow us to estimate the worst possible impact of the release of 55,000 lb. MHF from a single acid settler tank. Serious and irreversible injuries are possible with short-term exposure up to 17 miles from the refinery. Wind determines the exposure.

The Danger of MHF

(Click here to help now) Southern California has a life-threatening problem. We’re at risk from hundreds of tons of one of the world’s most dangerous chemicals. Two refineries in the South Bay (in Torrance and Wilmington) use HydroFluoric acid (HF) in their alkylation process. They are the only refineries in California to use HF; others use a safer chemical. The South Bay refineries claim their HF is safe for the hundreds of thousands in the surrounding community. They add a chemical to HF to “dilute” it, and call it Modified HydroFluoric acid (MHF). But at only one or two additive molecules per hundred, it’s not enough to make a difference. MHF is just as deadly as regular HF. If released, it forms a ground-hugging cloud that can drift for miles, causing injury and death. The refineries’ other mitigation measures, like water sprays and barriers, are also ineffective. Mass casualties can result from an MHF release — wind direction determines who dies.

What’s Being Done

For decades, the South Bay has battled the refineries’ all-too-successful campaign to keep using HF rather than converting to a much safer process, such as is used at Chevron in El Segundo and the other California refineries. Following the massive Torrance refinery explosion in February 2015, which nearly released 50,000 lb of MHF, investigations by the Torrance Refinery Action Alliance (TRAA) and the U.S. Chemical Safety Board uncovered the true threat MHF poses. Now, the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) is considering Rule 1410 to require HF/MHF replacement with a safer alternative at both refineries. But industry is fighting back with well-financed campaigns. The next few months are critical!

Call to action

Please contact the SCAQMD to make our community safe! The Torrance city council has pledged to follow the regulations set by the SCAQMD board. The SCAQMD staff (which advises the board) agrees with us: MHF acid is nowhere near as safe as the oil industry claims. MHF and regular unmodified HF acid are equally dangerous. In densely-populated Los Angeles, it would be much safer for our refineries to use other alkylation chemicals which are already in use at other refineries in our state. Now the board is reviewing initial concepts for  Rule 1410, and they need to hear from the community that we want this chemical gone! They’re being lobbied hard by the oil industry. We need to lobby them even harder!