The mission of the Torrance Refinery Action Alliance is to bring about the conversion of the two Southern California refineries that use massive amounts of highly dangerous hydrogen fluoride (HF) — Torrance Refining Company and Valero in Wilmington — to a modern, vastly safer process, as a growing number of HF refineries in the nation have successfully done or are currently doing. Elimination of HF will provide safety from death — as well as day-to-day peace of mind — for hundreds of refinery workers, their families, and for thousands of others at risk in the community.
TRAA’s mission (above) is motivated by these three irrefutable facts:
- In 1987, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory discovered, with its full-scale “Goldfish Tests” in the Nevada desert, that a release of superheated HF* forms a lethal, ground-hugging aerosol cloud, which can cause death and injury for miles downwind of a refinery.
* Hydrogen fluoride’s thermodynamic state in refineries’ alkylation settler tanks.
- In spite of good-faith efforts and considerable resources of the refineries and the dedication and bravery of refinery workers to meet the formidable challenge of using HF safely, there remain catastrophic scenarios beyond their control — from Earthquakes, Accidents, and Terrorism (E.A.T.) — capable of releasing HF inside refineries and far into surrounding communities.
- The prime example of the potential for an accidental HF release — and the motivation for the formation of TRAA — is the February 18, 2015 explosion at the Torrance refinery that very nearly released 50,000 lbs. of superheated HF into the community.
TRAA carries out its mission in collaboration with like-minded community organizations; local, state, and federal government entities; by informing the public with a website and newsletter and a blog by its science panel, and with monthly open meetings with noted speakers.
- On the national scene, TRAA actively advocates that the Environmental Protection Agency require all HF refineries across the nation convert to a vastly safer alkylation catalyst.
- The TRAA Voter Advisory Panel evaluates candidates for elected office and recommends those with views that align with TRAA’s mission.
- The TRAA Science Advisory Panel of six respected South Bay scientists and engineers assures that TRAA communications are scientifically valid and accurate, and refutes false claims by others. The Panel also carries out independent investigations and analyses, posted on the TRAA Science Advisory Panel blog. These show that crucial safety measures the refineries have in place are inadequate. The prime example is the ineffectiveness of an additive to prevent the formation of a ground-hugging, lethal HF cloud.
- Noted headline speakers at TRAA’s monthly Zoom meetings have included Congresswoman Maxine Waters; former Legislative Director of Greenpeace Rick Hind; former Managing Director of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board Dr. Daniel Horowitz; California Democratic Party Executive Board member Tony Hale; President of the Coalition for Clean Air & Former Governing Board Member of SCAQMD Dr. Joseph K. Lyou; Congressman Ted Lieu; Executive Director of Air Alliance Houston Jennifer Hadayia; Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi; the TRAA Voter Advisory Panel’s top-scoring candidates in the June 7, 2022 Torrance election for Mayor, City Councilmen, and Treasurer; documentary filmmaker Olivia Rosenbloom, who screened her newly completed documentary Near Miss; and Director of Policy Analysis at the Union of Concerned Scientists Genna Reed.
TRAA believes that its mission has economic benefits in addition to safety and peace-of-mind for refinery workers and members of the community:
- The conversion of a refinery requires a several-hundred-million-dollar investment in modernizing its HF alkylation infrastructure with one of several commercially available, vastly safer alternatives. The cost is compensated in large part from the recent reduction in corporate taxes from 35% to 21%. For the refineries’ investment to have maximum economic benefit to the local community, TRAA is resolved that the conversion work should be carried out first and foremost by the current experienced unionized workforce.
- In the nation’s inevitable transition to renewable energy sources, far fewer refineries will be needed. Those that have modernized and have safe alkylation processes in place will be in a stronger position to survive and continue their economic contribution to the local community with good jobs and tax revenue.