Air Quality Officials Reject Ban on Toxic Acid Used in South Bay Refineries

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An explosion in 2015 at Exxon Mobil's refinery in Torrance prompted neighbors to call for the facility's permanent closure. (Credit: KTLA)

An explosion in 2015 at Exxon Mobil’s refinery in Torrance prompted neighbors to call for the facility’s permanent closure. (Credit: KTLA)

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Air quality officials on Saturday moved to close the door on a ban of a dangerous acid used at two South Bay oil refineries that community groups have sought since a 2015 explosion raised concerns about the potential for a catastrophic release.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District’s Republican-controlled refinery committee voted 3-2 to support an industry-backed alternative. The plan directs agency staff to develop agreements with refineries in Torrance and Wilmington that would allow them to keep using modified hydrofluoric acid, with enhanced safety measures.

The highly toxic chemical, used to make high-octane gasoline, can form a deadly, ground-hugging cloud that could drift into surrounding communities and cause mass casualties in the event of a major leak.

The decision followed hours of testimony at a packed public hearing in Diamond Bar that pitted South Bay residents and environmentalists urging a ban on the chemical against business groups, building trades representatives and refinery workers who said it would be too costly.

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