Reps. Ted Lieu and Maxine Waters Praise Torrance’s Role as South Bay Employment Hub
Despite a series of troublesome safety issues at ExxonMobil’s Torrance refinery, South Bay Reps. Ted Lieu and Maxine Waters nevertheless praised the oil giant Monday for its role as a major employer and in acknowledging the threat of climate change.
ExxonMobil, which employs 650 of its own employees as well as 550 contract workers, was among the major regional employers commended by Lieu and Waters at the 14th annual State of the Region address, hosted by the Torrance Chamber of Commerce at the Doubletree hotel.
The two congressional representatives applauded a drop in unemployment in Los Angeles County for three straight months — to its current 5.9 percent — and noted that Torrance plays a major role as an employment center for the South Bay.
“Unemployment has improved and people found jobs,” Waters said.
Earlier this year, Toyota announced moving it would move its sales and marketing headquarters from Torrance to Texas, relocating about 3,000 jobs. Although Toyota served as a leader in South Bay employment, Waters said “booming businesses” like PolyPeptide Laboratories and ExxonMobil have also benefited the community.
Despite their praise, Lieu and Waters have been aggressive in their push for federal investigations into accidents and safety problems at ExxonMobil, which has agreed to sell the refinery to independent refiner PBF Energy for $537.5 million.
“We know Exxon is a major employer, but as public officials we have to be concerned about safety,” Waters said. “We want the right people to be accountable. We want it all — we want a safe refinery and we want the jobs, too.”
The refinery is scheduled to host a “big meeting” with the city during the second week in January and Waters encouraged the city to pay attention and make the right decisions about the embattled refinery.
Lieu, meanwhile, praised ExxonMobil for acknowledging that it believes there is a global threat from climate change, the role of fossil fuels in that threat and that governments should take action to combat it.
Lieu, a former state lawmaker in his first term in the House, and Waters, a veteran of 13 terms in Congress, also addressed the mass shooting at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, cautioning those in attendance not to take all “political talk” at face value.
Political decisions shouldn’t be influenced by religious stereotypes, Waters said. It’s about “understanding diversity,” seeing what people offer and how the nation could benefit from those talents.
In the aftermath of the Paris terror attacks and the mass shooting in San Bernardino, Lieu said, the focus of prohibiting Syrian refugees from entering the United States has now shifted to the Visa Waiver Program. The program allows residents from 38 countries to travel to the U.S. without a visa for 90 days or less if all requirements are met. Lieu said program requirements are expected to be tightened in Congress.
“It’s bizarre to me that we have all these terrorist attacks and then we focus on this group of people that have nothing to do with it,” Lieu said.