Mike Rogge

Hydrogen Fluoride/Hydrofluoric Acid Ban Proposed

By Mike Rogge

Capitol Update, Feb. 12, 2016 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

Last year, on the morning of Sunday, September 6th, a leak of a potentially dangerous gas occurred from a three-inch nozzle as a truck containing hydrofluoric acid unloaded its contents into a vessel at ExxonMobil’s Torrance refinery. This incident combined with an explosion at the facility the previous February spurred both activist and public concern about the dangers the plant poses on the surrounding residents. While the leak was small, at the rate of approximately 10 drops per minute, hydrogen fluoride and its acid derivative, hydrofluoric acid, are considered highly toxic and must be handled with extreme care. Exxon-Mobil has stated that the leak was insignificant from a safety standpoint and the city has downplayed the spill with City Manager LeRoy Jackson stating, “It was handled and resolved very quickly. In those situations, there are safety steps in place.”

Nevertheless, in the wake of this incident, Assembly Member Rob Bonta (D-Alameda) introduced AB 1759 on February 2nd. This legislation would primarily do two things:

1.  Require that the owner of an oil refinery that uses hydrogen fluoride or hydrofluoric acid notify everyone within a 3.5 mile radius of the facility biannually, and

2.  Require that any business that handles, maintains or stores 250 gallons of hydrogen fluoride or hydrofluoric acid convert to a significantly less hazardous substitute by January 1, 2017.

This bill was filed as an urgency bill, meaning that it would take effect immediately. However, urgency measures require a two-thirds confirmation by the legislature, making it a harder hurdle for passage.

Due to its urgency, CMTA doesn’t think it will pass the legislature, but it will likely pass through its policy and fiscal committees and reach the Assembly Floor. Democrat leadership in the Assembly would like to make Assembly Member Hadley (R-Manhattan Beach) take an uncomfortable vote in the Assembly which could be used against him by his opponent in the upcoming election, former Assembly Member Muratsuchi (D-Torrance), who would use it with voters to claim Hadley is not concerned about public safety.

Senator Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) is contemplating a similar bill. His staff has been asking pointed questions since late November, but, at least at this point, his office is not divulging whether or not they will proceed with a bill or any of the particulars.

While AB 1759 is targeted at the ExxonMobil refinery in Torrance, CMTA is canvassing potential users of hydrogen fluoride/hydrofluoric acid (HF). Apparently only a small percentage of the hydrogen fluoride/hydrofluoric acid used in the state is by the refineries. A sample of some of the products and industries that use hydrogen fluoride are: Refrigerants, pharmaceutical intermediates, fluorescent lighting, uranium production, plastics, metals manufacturing, glass etching and polishing, semi-conductor preparation, electronics, herbicides, aircraft, and aerospace.

CMTA encourages the business community to take a look at the bill and let us know if any of your operations in California would be impacted. Please contact Mike Rogge at: mrogge@cmta.net or 916-498-3313.

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