- Associated Press - Thursday, March 5, 2015

TORRANCE, Calif. (AP) - A state Senate committee hearing is scheduled Thursday into the safety record of the Torrance refinery where an explosion last month injured several people and shut down the plant, throttling California’s gasoline production and helping to drive up prices.

Refinery owner Exxon Mobil officials, first-responders and representatives of government environmental agencies were scheduled to appear at the public hearing at Torrance City Hall. They were expected to answer questions on the refinery’s safety record, the accident’s impact on the Los Angeles-area community and on state efforts to prevent and respond to such accidents.

The hearing, being held jointly by several Senate committees, will be followed by a March 24 hearing in Sacramento that will focus on the volatility of oil prices and the impact of refinery accidents on gasoline prices.

“The refinery explosion deeply concerns me about the safety of our neighbors but also our rights as consumers of energy and fuel,” said a statement from Senate President pro tem Kevin de Leon. “I am working with my colleagues to protect consumers from the volatility of gas prices and examine what causes them. The upcoming hearings will focus on getting the facts and we hope the oil industry will be open and transparent when it comes to answering our questions.”

A unit of the Exxon Mobil refinery that was critical to producing California-grade gasoline - a specialized blend designed to meet the state’s stringent air-pollution regulations - exploded on Feb. 18, stopping new production there while the state investigates.

The blast slightly injured four contractors, heavily damaged equipment and rained a fine white ash on nearby homes and cars. State air-quality regulators have confirmed that the ash was not toxic.

The cause of the explosion remains under investigation, and it is unclear when production will resume.

The accident was partly blamed for a surge in gasoline prices, which soared by 25 cents a gallon in less than a week. The hike also was partly blamed on labor unrest that halted production at another oil refinery in the Northern California town of Martinez.

The sharp rise capped a run-up of 60 cents a gallon since the end of January as refineries prepared to shift to a costlier, less-polluting summer blend of fuels.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide