Excerpts from Torrance’s Arguments
“Mobil . . . poses a public nuisance”:
* One million people live within a few miles of the refinery, and three schools and several hospitals are within one-third of a mile. Fires, explosions and other accidents at the refinery have injured scores of persons on- and off-site, and have killed at least six people since 1979.
* The refinery has emitted toxic fumes and noxious odors that have sickened workers and nearby residents, hospitalized schoolchildren and caused street closures. And it has sprayed oil that has spotted “pets, lawns, houses, hanging laundry and cars.”
“Regulatory efforts fall short”:
* Mobil has internally acknowledged responsibility for the hydrogen sulfide release that sent eight students and two teachers at Magruder Middle School to the hospital in March, 1989, but has never revealed that to the South Coast Air Quality Management District, and has never been cited for a pollution violation. When prosecuted for pollution violations, Mobil generally pleads no contest and pays no more than $1,500 in fines.
* Mobil, whose net profits are $4 million to $8 million per month, considers the $900,000 annually it paid the AQMD in 1988 and 1989 for excess emissions a cost of doing business.
Mobil’s use of independent contractors:
* On July 15, 1988, two explosions involving outside contract workers disrupted work at the refinery. The second one, involving Cal Cat Chemical Co., killed one worker and seriously burned two others. In May, 1989, Mobil rehired the same contractor--which had changed its name to Erikson Environmental--despite its poor safety record “simply because they charged lower rates than other potential contractors for this job.”
* Mobil and other refineries hire contractors because they are cheaper by the hour and relieve the refineries of paying for employee benefits. Mobil “also hires contractors in order to attempt to distance itself from liability suits and criminal and civil regulatory enforcement actions. . . . “
“Mobil’s longstanding disregard of safety:”
* “Mobil’s own documents admit that the Torrance refinery is one of Mobil’s oldest refineries and that management makes only ‘Band-Aid repairs’ instead of spending money to implement a strong preventive maintenance program and to replace potentially hazardous equipment. . . .”
* A 1988 chart prepared by Mobil showed that 62 of the refinery’s 85 storage tanks have been used since before 1950, despite having a useful life of only 15 years. Some moved to the site in the 1930s were still in use at the beginning of 1990.
* Mobil’s headquarters management in Fairfax, Va., strongly objected to Torrance management’s request to double-bottom six particular storage tanks. “The refinery was criticized for not sharing management’s ‘philosophy’ regarding repairs. . . .”
* Flammable hydrocarbons have seeped into the refinery’s fire water and steam system, which are intended to snuff out flash fires and cool process units during major blazes. On occasion, “employees tried to use the systems to put out small fires and ended up spraying oil, not water, on the fires.”
“Mobil has repeatedly failed to meet reporting requirements”:
* During a legislative inquiry, Mobil claimed only 32 injuries from 1980 to 1989. But documents show there were 392 injuries from 1985 to 1988 alone.