Panel to Study Oil Facility Hazards : Assembly Committee Also Will Review Chemical Plants

Times Staff Writer

Assembly Speaker Willie Brown has created an eight-member legislative committee to recommend ways to protect workers and communities from dangers posed by oil refineries, pipelines and chemical storage and manufacture.

The committee, which Brown announced Thursday, has a mandate to examine safety problems statewide, but Assemblyman David Elder (D-Long Beach), who will be its chairman, said the panel initially will focus on the South Bay. The densely populated area has eight major refineries, one of the heaviest concentrations in the country.

Citing the proximity of refineries, chemical plants and pipelines to residential areas, Elder said: “It is terrible to have something noxious-smelling and even those that can make you sick, but what is worse are those things that can kill you.

“I think it is something that needs to be addressed by the Legislature. The public should not be asked to pay the premium on this. We have a lot of work to do.”


Among the events that spurred Elder to ask Brown in November to create a select committee were a string of accidents at the Mobil oil refinery in Torrance that caused 3 deaths and a dozen injuries in the last two years; chlorine clouds that forced the evacuation of thousands in Commerce and Simi Valley, and pipeline ruptures in the San Fernando Valley that poured thousands of gallons of crude oil onto city streets.

Elder added that he hopes to begin holding hearings before the summer legislative recess. The committee is to report legislative recommendations by July, 1990.

A spokesman for the Western States Petroleum Assn. said it would be premature to comment on the formation of the committee.

In addition to Elder, whose 57th Assembly District includes two refineries, two other South Bay legislators are on the committee--Richard E. Floyd (D-Carson) and Gerald N. Felando (R-San Pedro)--and also have refineries in their districts.

Other members are Sally Tanner (D-El Monte), Byron D. Sher (D-Mountain View), Thomas M. Hannigan (D-Fairfield), Carol Bentley (R-El Cajon) and Frank Hill (R-Whittier).