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Congresswoman Waters’ Statement on the Torrance Refinery Fire

November 17, 2016
Press Release


Congresswoman Waters’ Statement on the Torrance Refinery Fire


WASHINGTON, D.C. – In the wake of the fire that erupted Tuesday at the Torrance refinery, which is owned by PBF Energy, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Ranking Member of the Financial Services Committee and Torrance representative, released the following statement today:


“I am relieved that Tuesday’s fire at the Torrance refinery was effectively contained, and I am grateful there were no reported casualties.  I commend all of the fire fighters and first responders who were involved in responding to this emergency.


Nevertheless, I am deeply concerned by the history of mishaps at the Torrance refinery. I am especially concerned that Tuesday’s fire occurred in the refinery’s alkylation unit, where a form of hydrofluoric acid is used in the refining process. Hydrofluoric acid is a highly toxic chemical, which could have catastrophic impacts upon the surrounding community if it is released during a major accident. Many Torrance residents have called upon the refinery operator to cease its use of this potentially dangerous chemical and replace it with a less hazardous alternative. Tuesday’s fire in the alkylation unit will undoubtedly magnify the community’s concerns about this chemical.


The Torrance refinery has a long history of safety problems, including fires, explosions, leaks, and flaring incidents. Known mishaps over the past two years include a February 18, 2015, explosion, which injured four workers, registered as a magnitude 1.7 earthquake, and covered much of the surrounding community with ash; a September 6, 2015, release of modified hydrofluoric acid; a December 5, 2015, release of hydrogen sulfide; the collapse of a 300-ton crane on June 20, 2016, which injured three workers; and an October 11, 2016, flaring incident in which the refinery emitted flames and belched thick black smoke, which was visible for miles and which caused the City of Torrance to issue a shelter-in-place order for local residents and close nearby roads.


It is unfortunate that this refinery is located in a densely populated area of Southern California, where a serious accident has the potential to injure or even kill large numbers of people.  While I realize that we cannot re-invent history, I am profoundly aware that the potential risk to the community is very real.  At some point in the near future, this risk will have to be realistically dealt with.


I am joining together with my colleague, Congressman Ted Lieu, to send a letter to the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) requesting that the CSB investigate the cause of Tuesday’s fire.  I will continue to work hard on these issues until such time as we can guarantee the safety of the residents of Torrance and everyone who lives and works near the refinery.”