Groups Demand Federal Investigation of Trump Administration’s Dropped Ball on Violations at CA Refinery

For Immediate Release

Los Angeles, Ca. -- Environment California and the Environmental Integrity Project sent a letter to the EPA Inspector General’s Office today requesting an investigation into EPA’s lack of action to resolve documented hazardous waste violations at a refinery in Los Angeles County.

As first reported in The Los Angeles Times on January 18, EPA inspectors visited the PBF Energy Torrance Refining Company in December 2016 and found nearly 285 tons of hazardous waste that had been sitting illegally at the site for 26 years.  In addition, EPA inspectors found thousands of other tons of hazardous waste improperly stored and treated.

“The people of California have a right to know why the Trump Administration decided not to pursue such obvious and well-documented violations of pollution control laws,” said Michelle Kinman, Clean Energy Advocate for Environment California, and also a Torrance resident.  “The environment and public health are put at risk when EPA drops the ball like this, and only the polluters benefit.”

Toxic waste, such as the materials found at the refinery at 3700 W. 190th St. in Torrance, cannot be stored or treated without a proper permit, which the plant lacked. By law, much of this hazardous waste should have been sent off-site for disposal decades ago.  Unpermitted storage and treatment of hazardous waste are significant violations of both state and federal hazardous waste management laws.

California inspectors had been inspecting the facility since at least 2001, but had failed to discover the storage and treatment violations, leaving EPA to discover the violations and bring enforcement.  After documenting the problem, EPA was poised to take formal action against the company– but then abruptly changed course following President Trump’s election.

“We know that the hazardous chemicals at the Torrance refinery have the potential to threaten the lives and health of workers and nearby residents even when they are properly stored,” said California State Senator Ben Allen. “That risk is compounded when the EPA turns a blind eye to dozens of known safety violations at the plant. I support the call for the EPA Inspector General to investigate why the agency has not done its job to require the refinery operator to fix these violations, and keep our community safe.”

The Los Angeles Times report presented the Torrance case as an example of the lack of environmental enforcement during EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s tenure.  From the time Pruitt took office on February 17, through November, the cost of pollution-control equipment and cleanup activity required by EPA enforcement dropped by more than 85 percent compared to the previous year, according to the Times report. Even compared with the dollar amount required during the same period of the George W. Bush administration, there was a dropoff of more than 50 percent, according to the Times.

“We are asking that the EPA Inspector General’s Office conduct a thorough examination of the Torrance refinery case to determine why EPA did not act,” said Mary Greene, Deputy Director of the Environmental Integrity Project and a former EPA attorney.   “We also request that EPA take immediate enforcement action against this facility.  This refinery has been in major violation of the most basic requirements of the federal waste management laws and has been avoiding proper permitting requirements for decades.  This is not safe for workers and the public – and it demands an explanation.”

For a copy of the letter, visit environmentalintegrity.org

The Environmental Integrity Project is a 15-year-old nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, based in Washington D.C., dedicated to enforcing environmental laws and holding polluters and governments accountable to protect public health.

Environment California is a statewide, citizen-funded environmental advocacy organization dedicated to protecting California’s air, water and open spaces.