Hermosa Beach City Council Candidate Positions on MHF

Recently TRAA sent a brief questionnaire to the candidates in the Hermosa Beach City Council election being held on May 11. The three questions asked of each candidate were:

  1. Are you in favor of a ban on HF/MHF?
  2. What have you done to effect a ban in the past?
  3. What do you plan to do in the future?

It’s still early and we’ve heard from two candidates so far. We will let you know if other candidates respond to our questionnaire.

Response from Dean Francois:

  1. I am in favor of a ban on HF/MHF.
  2. I have been a long time supporter of banning this product statewide.  I have testified at many public agencies, and numerous times at the Torrance city council meetings for this ban. I have contacted state legislators.   I have been involved in many Sierra club endorsements of elected officials throughout LA county.  I have ensured they are routinely asked about this issue and do not ever recall endorsing any candidate that did not favor the ban.   I spoke at a TRAA press conference in 2016 with various elected officials.   https://www.facebook.com/almuratsuchi/videos/1099340240135526
  3. I will continue to do everything in the capacity of Hermosa Beach City Council to attempt to ban the deadly MHF at the Torrance refinery. I will also urge emergency response teams and personnel to create a better awareness of possible accidents at the Torrance refinery and how it could affect residents of Hermosa Beach.

Response from Randy Balik:

I still have not had a chance to put down a thoughtful reply, but to answer briefly, as I stated below, I am in favor of the elimination of MHF.  I am also somewhat (but not totally) familiar with the technical challenges and capital issues.

MHF is used for a more efficient alkylation process at those two refineries, partly because of the type of crude that comes in.  To eliminate the HF Alky units at those two refineries would pose a problem to our fuel supply in CA because we are essentially a fuel island given the state regulations about how our fuels are made – we can only purchase and consume fuels made in CA and cannot import any from elsewhere.  The HF Alky process is important to gasoline production, and so any reduction in this process would reduce supply.  So any pinch in supply, especially from the Torrance refinery, would be a problem in that regard.  I believe there are some technologies being tested that could potentially replace MHF, but I’m not an expert in that.  I also know that there are other alkylation methods currently in use at other refineries, and I’m not entirely sure why those methods would not work at the two facilities where MHF is being used.  I know that the oil industry talks about prohibitive capital conversion cost at this time, but again, I’m not an expert in that either so I can’t speak to that one way or another.

But going back to the key question at hand, the use of MHF in the alkylation process at these two refineries does carry a public safety risk; that cannot be ignored.  I have not done anything to this point to support either side.  Looking ahead, as a City Councilmember, I’d need to learn what exactly I can do, as I have not looked into his particular issue as part of my campaign.  I’ve been solely focused on some of our more immediate Hermosa Beach issues, and while I know a MHF release with a certain wind condition would be bad for Hermosa (and a lot of other folks no matter what the wind condition), I admittedly have not focused on this particular issue up to this point.  But I thank you for once again bringing it to my attention.

Please let me know if you have any other questions.

Randy

Response from Tara McNamara Stabile:

Hi Steve, thank you for the opportunity. You sent this on the day I received my second vaccination, which hit me pretty hard, and I’m pretty behind at work because of my campaign (it takes up a lot of time, it turns out!:). So, I hope you don’t mind if I answer briefly: “I am absolutely in favor of a ban on HF/MHF, and I was shocked to learn this chemical was being used/allowed in a densely populated area with environmental ramifications. My career is in journalism, and I’m running for city council to represent the resident’s point of view to complement the current council who hold expertise in environmental, school, and city services. As Hermosa Beach doesn’t have jurisdiction, I believe we can help out with this issue (as well as the AES plant, an even closer environmental concern for us) by reteaming the creators behind the Keep Hermosa Hermosa campaign (several of whom are City Council members) to create another grassroots marketing campaign in opposition to the plant’s use of HF/MHF. As an Editor-in-Chief of entertainment websites, I know first hand: PR works! And a PR nightmare is even more effective. I stand with you.”

–Tara McNamara Stabile

While Daniel Rittenhouse hasn’t responded to our enquiry, he has spoken in other forums about his concern about MHF and favors its elimination.

We hope this helps you when making your decision in the race.

Texas Refinery Issues a Shelter-in-Place Advisory after Chemical Leak

The Marathon Petroleum Corp Galveston Bay Refinery in Texas City, Texas advised residents to stay inside after a leak of a dangerous chemical. Some reports identified the dangerous chemical as hydrofluoric acid, although Marathon did not confirm that.

So far, there are no reports of fatalities, although two workers were treated for exposure to the chemical.

In an interesting contrast to the case of the Torrance Refinery, the United Steelworkers Union at the Marathon Refinery have advocated for the removal of hydrofluoric acid used in the alkylation process due to risks posed by this dangerous chemical.

For more information, see the Reuters article or one by Nasdaq.com.

California State Senate Race Endorsement for District 30

The California State Senate seat for District 30 was vacated by Democrat Holly Mitchell, who resigned to take a seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. The southern area of this district is within the danger zone of risk from a possible large HF release at the Torrance refinery.

Seven candidates are running in a special election to fill that seat. TRAA sent out a questionnaire to all candidates and only one responded, Sydney Kamlager.  In her response, Kamlager stated: “She hadn’t had an opportunity to do anything to support the removal of HF, that she was opposed to the use of HF and favored its removal and would be willing to do things in the future citing her strong environmental record.”

Based on her response and the lack of response by the other candidates we encourage residence of the 30th District to vote for Sydney Kamlager for State Senator for Senate District 30.

Redondo Beach Elected Official Scorecard

Redondo Beach residents should have their municipal ballots in hand.  The TRAA queried the Redondo Beach candidates for office and scored them with respect to their commitment to eliminate hydrofluoric acid from the local refinery.

Here is the response from candidates as of February 18, 2021:

Name Candidate for: Favors a ban on HF/MHF Has taken action in the past Pledges to take action in the future Score
Bill Brand* Mayor Yes Yes Yes A
Nils Nehrenheim* Redondo Beach City Council District 1 Yes Yes Yes A
Todd Loewenstein* Redondo Beach City Council District 2 Yes Yes Yes A
John Gran* Redondo Beach City Council District 4 Yes Yes Yes A
Brad Waller Redondo Beach City Council District 1 Yes Yes Yes A
Zein Obagi Redondo Beach City Council District 4 Yes No Yes B
Karen Ford Cull Redondo Beach School Board Not Sure Yes Yes B
Dan Elder Redondo Beach School Board Yes Yes Yes A
Margo Trone Redondo Beach School Board Not Sure No Yes C
Chris Voisey Mayor Not Sure No Yes C

*Incumbent

Call into the AQMD Meeting Friday, February 5 @ 9 AM

Get your 3 minutes of talking points ready….   

This Friday –  6 years since the 2/18/2015 explosion at the Torrance Refinery and 1 1/2 years since the cave-in by the AQMD Board allowing two refineries to continue to use of deadly HF/MHF – the AQMD will have another board meeting. This is the first since the release of a Report (Linked Here) revealing that nothing has been done. This gives us another chance to let them know we are still here, and that the threat still exists. Call in this Friday- details below.

The issue of HF or the Refineries is not on the agenda, but according to the agenda itself: At the beginning of the agenda, an opportunity is also provided for the public to speak on any subject within the South Coast AQMD’s authority.

Linked here is a set of Talking Points we have produced regarding the issue. We also suggest that you thank Judy Mitchell, who is retiring from the board, for her outspoken support of the MHF Ban.And what has happened since they accepted the Refineries offers?

  1. PBF & Valero have according to letters sent to AQMD done some engineering but no actual work and won’t be doing any until 2021 or 2022! 
  2. We learned that the explosion in Philly refinery released 5000lbs of HF!
  3. EPA required the doubling of the Zone of death or serious injury to 6 miles! (we know it to be much bigger). This also raises Homeland Security issues.
  4. From the EPA – large storage areas and unloading areas of HF not protected. (The Philadelphia release and explosion resulted from a broken pipe)
  5. Vastly Safer Alkylation alternatives are now up and running.
  6. COVID-19 has increased chances of release and greatly reduced the ability of health systems to respond to a potential release. Our hospitals are at or near capacity already.


The AQMD board will meet this Friday at 9:00 AM and you can Zoom/Call in and speak for 3 minutes in public comment at start of meeting – here is the Agenda and the Zoom link

Join Zoom Meeting – from PC, Laptop or Phone
https://scaqmd.zoom.us/j/93128605044
Meeting ID: 931 2860 5044 (applies to all)
Teleconference Dial In +1 669 900 6833 or +1 253 215 8782

Call in to let them know we still care about our lives, and demand phase out of HF/MHF.

***AQMD MEETING PUBLIC COMMENTS*** 

Members of the public are afforded an opportunity to speak on any agenda item before consideration of that item. Persons wishing to speak may do so remotely via Zoom or telephone. To provide public comments via a Desktop/Laptop or Smartphone, click on the “Raise Hand” at the bottom of the screen, or if participating via Dial-in/Telephone Press *9. This will signal to the host that you would like to provide a public comment and you will be added to the list.

All agendas are posted at South Coast AQMD Headquarters, 21865 Copley Drive, Diamond Bar, California, at least 72 hours in advance of the meeting. At the beginning of the agenda, an opportunity is also provided for the public to speak on any subject within the South Coast AQMD’s authority. Speakers may be limited to a total of three (3) minutes for the entirety of the Consent Calendar plus Board Calendar, and three (3) minutes or less for each of the other agenda items.

Note that on items listed on the Consent Calendar and the balance of the agenda any motion, including action, can be taken (consideration is not limited to listed recommended actions). Additional matters can be added and action taken by two-thirds vote, or in the case of an emergency, by a majority vote. Matters raised under the Public Comment Period may not be acted upon at that meeting other than as provided above.

Written comments will be accepted by the Board and made part of the record. Individuals who wish to submit written or electronic comments must submit such comments to the Clerk of the Board, South Coast AQMD, 21865 Copley Drive, Diamond Bar, CA 91765-4178, (909) 396-2500, or to cob@aqmd.gov, on or before 5:00 p.m. on the Tuesday prior to the Board meeting.

TRAA Kicks-off Campaign Urging Gov. Newsom to Initiate Investigation of HF Usage

Last February 15, 2020, the TRAA hosted a press conference and Call to Action at the Doubletree Hotel in Torrance.  In addition to commemorating the 5th anniversary of the explosion at the Torrance Refinery, the group announced an initiative to urge California Governor Newsom to request that Atty Gen. Xavier Becerra’s office open an investigation to determine how the Torrance and Wilmington refineries are able to legally store vast quantities of dangerous hydrofluoric acid in a densely populated area.

An LA Times article on this topic is included below, and can be found by clicking here.

Activists marking Torrance refinery explosion anniversary call for investigation

 

Explosion at Exxon Mobil Torrance refinery

Activists held an event Saturday to mark the fifth anniversary of the explosion at the Exxon Mobil refinery in Torrance that injured four workers.  (KTLA-TV)

ALEX WIGGLESWORTH |FEB. 15, 2020

A group of activists on Saturday marked the fifth anniversary of an explosion at the Exxon Mobil refinery in Torrance that injured four workers and prompted continuing concerns about the potential for an even more catastrophic incident and the release of toxic chemicals and fumes into local communities.

The explosion on Feb. 18, 2015, was described by federal regulators as “a serious near miss.”

The investigation of the Torrance explosion by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board revealed that a piece of equipment nearly crashed into a tank holding tens of thousands of pounds of modified hydrofluoric acid — a highly toxic chemical used to make high-octane gasoline.

When released, the chemical can form a deadly, ground-hugging cloud that, in the event of a major leak, could have caused “serious injury or death to many community members,” according to the agency.

On Saturday, the Torrance Refinery Action Alliance announced a campaign urging Gov. Gavin Newsom to call for an investigation into the use of modified hydrofluoric acid at the facility, now operated by Torrance Refining Co., as well as by Valero’s Wilmington refinery. The refineries are the only two in the state that use the substance.
The Torrance Refinery Action Alliance plans on Tuesday to deliver a letter from its science advisory panel to Newsom’s office urging him to request that Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra’s office investigate how the Torrance and Wilmington refineries are able to legally operate using hydrofluoric acid.

The new campaign comes several months after air quality regulators killed a years-long push for stronger regulation of hydrofluoric acid at the two refineries.

In September, the South Coast Air Quality Management District governing board voted instead to accept a voluntary oil industry pledge to enhance safety measures. The decision by the board came one week after the two refineries sent letters offering to install improved safety systems in the coming years if regulators ended their pursuit of new rules for the chemical.

Times staff writer Tony Barboza contributed to this report.

Press Conference on 5th Anniversary of Torrance Refinery Explosion

video

TRAA activists hosted a press conference on Saturday, February 15, 2020 to commemorate the 5th anniversary of the Torrance Refinery explosion. It was a terrific day for TRAA and the campaign to Ban HF.

Some of the notables about the morning:

  • Approximately 100 people filled the room
  • Many signed up for areas to help or donated to the effort
  • We had press coverage from channel 2 (CBS), channel 7 (ABC), Univision, at least one college newspaper, an article in the Daily Breeze
  • Terrific speakers (including representatives of Janice Hahn and Maxine Waters and for community partners (Coalition for Clean Air, Sierra Club, FLARE, and Indivisible.)
  • A well organized flow created by Jim and Jane that included the wonderful videos and the terrific message from Daniel Horowitz
  • Terrific exhibits by Donna on the history of the battle against HF, and the map by Mara with the great idea of pins where people liv

There was great energy provided by all the people who attended. We have segmented the video of the event into short, watchable segments and have provided previews below:

Press Conference Introduction–Steve Goldsmith

Press Conference Campaign to Initiate State Investigation–Jane Affonso and Jim Eninger, PhD

Press Conference Video Presentation by Dr. Daniel Horowitz, Former Managing Director, U.S. Chemical Safety Board

Press Conference Comments by Community Leaders

Press Conference Public Comments and Closing Remarks

15 State AG’s Sues Trump Admin EPA for Gutting Chemical Safeguards

The coalition is challenging the Trump EPA’s rollback of Obama-era amendments to its “Risk Management Program” (RMP) regulations, referred to as the Chemical Disaster Rule. This rule made critical improvements to the RMP to better safeguard against explosions, fires, poisonous gas releases, and other accidents at facilities that store and use toxic chemicals.

Attorney General James Sues Trump Admin For Gutting Safety Protections For Chemical Accidents

EPA’s Rollback of the Chemical Disaster Rule Eliminates Key Safety Measures
for Those Exposed to Explosions, Fires, Poisonous Gas Releases

9 Million New Yorkers Could be Affected

NEW YORK – Attorney General Letitia James, leading a coalition of 15 state attorneys general and the City of Philadelphia, today sued the Trump Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for gutting safeguards for those exposed to dangerous chemical accidents. Specifically, the coalition is challenging the Trump EPA’s rollback of Obama-era amendments to its “Risk Management Program” (RMP) regulations, referred to as the Chemical Disaster Rule. This rule made critical improvements to the RMP to better safeguard against explosions, fires, poisonous gas releases, and other accidents at facilities that store and use toxic chemicals.

“More than nine million New Yorkers live, work, and play in the shadow of facilities that store and use toxic chemicals,” said Attorney General James. “The Trump EPA is gutting critical safeguards against explosions, fires, poisonous gas releases, and other accidents at these facilities, putting New Yorkers in harm’s way. I am taking this fight to the courts, because every New Yorker deserves to live in a safe and healthy environment.”

The Trump Administration’s EPA finalized a rule that rolls back critical elements of the Chemical Disaster Rule in December 2019, which eliminated safeguards in accident prevention programs designed to protect communities and prevent future accidents. These changes included the elimination of independent audits conducted by third-parties and “root cause” analyses following accidents, as well as analyses of safer technology and alternatives that could prevent or lessen harms from accidents. The EPA also cut back on training requirements and requiring facilities to share information with first responders and nearby communities on hazardous chemicals used on site.

In August 2018, a coalition of 12 attorneys general — led by the New York Attorney General’s Office — submitted extensive comments on the EPA’s proposed rollback of the Chemical Disaster Rule, arguing that the proposal, if adopted, would be “arbitrary and capricious” and “inconsistent with the Clean Air Act.” The coalition urged the EPA to heed the warning of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia that the agency’s single-minded focus on industry costs of complying with the rule made a “mockery” out of the Clean Air Act.

Toxic chemical plants continue to have a potential for accidents that pose a serious danger to the public. In fact, since the attorneys general submitted supplemental comments on the proposed rule last summer, accidents at facilities regulated under the RMP have occurred across the country, causing deaths, injuries, and evacuations. For example, in November 2019, the massive explosions at the TPC Group chemical plant in Port Neches, Texas released toxic plumes of butadiene and other carcinogens into the air, injured at least eight people, and required the evacuation of over 60,000 residents from the surrounding communities.

According to publicly available data, 169 facilities covered by RMP regulations are located in New York, including Amrex Chemical (Binghamton), Arch Chemicals (Rochester), Durez Corp. (Niagara Falls), FMC Industrial Chemicals (Tonawanda), MPM Silicones (Waterford), International Paper (Ticonderoga), JCI Jones Chemicals (Warwick), Momentive Specialty Chemicals (South Glens Falls), PVS Chemical Solutions (Buffalo), Surpass Chemical (Albany), and Twin Lakes Chemical (Lockport).

The available data shows that more than 9.1 million people live within the “vulnerability zone” of RMP facilities in New York; vulnerability zones are the maximum possible area where a worst-case release of chemicals could harm people. A 2014 report by the Center for Effective Government (CEG) entitled “Kids in Danger Zones” found that New York had the fifth largest number of schools (2,210) and number of students (1,027,864 – 33 percent of all students) located in vulnerability zones.

The coalition’s petition for review was filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Joining Attorney General James in the suit are the attorneys general of the District of Columbia, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wisconsin, and the City of Philadelphia.
This matter is being handled by Attorney General James’ Environmental Protection Bureau by Special Assistant Attorney General Sarah K. Kam, Environmental Scientist John D. Davis, and Senior Counsel for Air Pollution and Climate Change Litigation Michael J. Myers — all of the Environmental Protection Bureau — under the supervision of Bureau Chief Lemuel M. Srolovic and Chief Counsel for Federal Initiatives Michael Colangelo. The Environmental Protection Bureau is part of the Division of Social Justice, led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Meghan Faux, all under the oversight of First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.

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Congressman Alan Lowenthal Expresses Support to Proposed Rule 1410

Last November, Congressman Alan Lowenthal joined fellow local congressmembers Ted Lieu, Maxine Waters, and Nanette Barragán in expressing support to the Southern California AQMD Proposed Rule 1410 to replace HF and MHF at the refineries within the SCAQMD jurisdiction.

Congressman Lowenthal represents the 47th congressional district, which includes Long Beach, but extends eastward to include parts of Orange County.

Lowenthal 1410 Letter (1)

To download this file, click here.

To see other letters of support from your representatives, click here.