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AQMD Seeking Criminal Charges Against Mobil Oil

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Times Staff Writer

The South Coast Air Quality Management District is seeking criminal charges against Mobil Oil Corp. for six air quality violations at its Torrance refinery last spring.

Torrance City Prosecutor J.D. Lord said Tuesday that he will file six misdemeanor counts against the company in South Bay Municipal Court by the end of the week. Company officials may also be charged because of the violations, which occurred from May 6 to June 6, he said.

Lord said odors from the Mobil refinery are “creating a substantial problem” for people who live nearby.

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The alleged violations stem from disconnected vapor recovery equipment at the refinery, excessive smoke and sulfur dioxide emissions, and release of foul-smelling hydrogen sulfide gas from a storage tank, which sparked more than 300 citizen complaints.

AQMD Executive Officer James M. Lents said the filing of criminal charges “should serve as notice to oil refiners that AQMD will not tolerate sloppy operations that cause pollution.”

AQMD records show that Mobil has paid $60,700 in fines for 50 violations of air quality laws during the past four years.

Mobil’s environmental and safety manager, Greg E. Munakata, confirmed Tuesday that the refinery received six citations during the May to June period, but said “the incidents were not willful and they have not been settled yet so there is no admission of guilt.”

Lord said Mobil could be fined up to $25,000, and any officials convicted could get a sentence of one year in jail if they are found to have knowingly violated the law.

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