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And the Scummy goes to…
The Torrance Refinery!

For being a really, really #BadNeighbor

An unplanned flaring event at Exxon’s refinery in Torrance shut down neighboring streets on Sunday. The disruptive flaring comes on the heels of some residents' concerns about the use of modified hydrochloric acid at the plant. It’s only been six months since a flaring event, caused by a rogue balloon, triggered power outages. And only a year since “excessive flaring' when smoke drifted into neighboring areas. And only a year and a half since a blast tore through the refinery, sending clouds of toxic smoke and ash raining down on nearby neighborhoods.

And you thought your neighbor’s barking dog was bad. 
Ten things you should know about

Big Oil in California

1. The Aliso Canyon methane leak is plugged (kind of) - but it’s not forgotten.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich called for an independent study of the long-term impacts of the massive Aliso Canyon gas leak. Since the leak was the largest in history, it seems like a good time to take a look at the long-term health impacts. Especially as some locals continue to feel ill.

Meanwhile, residents are calling for the storage facility to be permanently shut down after another gas leak was reported last week.   

The company responsible for the leak, Southern California Gas Co.,
agreed to pay $4 million to settle criminal charges - but the utility still faces potentially costly civil actions from both residents and regulators.

2. The fight against oil trains rolls on

This week, the Benicia City Council voted against allowing trains to carry crude oil through the city, thus making it impossible for the trains to travel through Davis, Sacramento and Roseville. The unanimous decision turns down a request by Valero Refining Company to ship crude oil on trains through parts of Northern California to its refinery, which is located on the Bay. Leaders in the Sacramento-area cities were understandably concerned that the oil trains would be a huge hazard if there were ever an oil spill or fire. Critics of the country’s expanding oil-by-rail operations hope the flexing of local power will reverberate across the Bay Area and the nation.

3. Remember that time the Richmond refinery blew up? So do state regulators.

Four years after a fire swept through Richmond’s Chevron Refinery, the result of a long-neglected corroded pipe, state officials are putting the final touches on a set of regulations they say will make California’s oil industry far safer. The proposed rules would increase employee involvement in safety decisions and require annual reporting of refinery safety measures. BlueGreen Alliance sees the proposed regulations as a substantial improvement over the status quo, although there are still loopholes the organization hopes the Standards Board will address.

4. For some kids, back to school means back to the dangers of fracking wells 

The sight of fracking wells is a common one to children living in predominantly Latinx Kern County, a region that’s home to a vibrant multicultural population. In 2015, Kern County approved permits for nearly 2,000 fracking wells in the population’s backyard. Each emits hydrogen sulfide, benzene and xylene, all chemicals that are dangerous to human health. One parent, Rodrigo Romo, filed a civil rights lawsuit in 2015, which was dismissed. Last week, Romo began the appeal process. Read all about it in this excellent piece from Color Lines.

5. California’s drought has been terrible. And this could just be the beginning.

In the apocalyptic news department, it seems today’s increasing greenhouse gas levels could exacerbate aridity and lock the Golden State into centuries of drought. The study from UCLA looked at the history of California's dry periods over the past 10,000 years and tracked California's historic and prehistoric climate by examining a sediment core in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

6. LA has itself a new petroleum czar

Uduak-Joe Ntuk, the first person in decades to hold the title of Los Angeles city petroleum administrator, comes from the oil and gas industry, but says he has the concerns of the community at heart. “I will focus on doing everything we can to protect the health and safety of L.A.’s communities, while taking a measured approach to the many complex issues raised by fossil fuel extraction in a large city,” Ntuk said in a statement. Stand L.A. questioned the appointment because Ntuk doesn't have a background in public health.

7. The ghost of an oil tank past haunts Carson

A Carson neighborhood was secretly built atop millions of tons of waste oil from a former Shell Oil tank farm that closed just before the 285 homes were built in the 1960s. The contamination was uncovered during routine testing in 2008 and, since then, a cleanup plan was negotiated. But, while yards will be dug up and replaced with clean dirt to a depth of up to 10 feet, the sludge under homes will be left behind because water board regulators decided it’s not enough of a health threat to be removed.

8. Cleaning up the Port of Los Angeles

Don’t be fooled by its generic name: General Petroleum Corp. shouldn’t be overlooked. In fact, the EPA fined the company, which operates a Terminal Island petroleum storage facility at the Port of Los Angeles, $15,500 for failing to prepare and implement a spill prevention plan required by the Clean Water Act. The settlement resolves allegations that General Petroleum Corp. allowed oil to spill into the harbor from its facility.

9. During a historic drought, California is considering additional aquifer exemptions for oil fields

The California Department of Conservation and State Water Resources Control Board are considering proposals to expand the current aquifer exemption designation for two Kern County oil fields. If approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the state could approve injections into the areas for oil extraction or wastewater disposal.

10. California is protecting its public lands

A U.S. district judge in Los Angeles issued a ruling overturning a federal plan to open vast tracts of public land in central California to oil and gas drilling, which includes fracking. “Fracking raises a number of environmental concerns, including risks of groundwater contamination, seismicity, and chemical leaks,” the judge wrote in the ruling. He also cited potential threats to endangered wildlife and concluded that the BLM’s environmental impact statement (EIS) was “inadequate.”
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