Official calls for federal review of San Pedro gas storage site

The Rancho LPG butane storage tanks are near shopping areas, playing fields and several schools in San Pedro. The facility is one of the oldest and largest of its kind.
(Christina House, For The Times)

A congressman is urging federal officials to more thoroughly investigate the safety of a San Pedro butane storage facility situated near homes, schools and shopping areas in San Pedro.

Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles) sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security demanding that the agency take additional steps to protect the public from the risk of explosion at the Rancho LPG Holdings site on North Gaffey Street.


Waxman said he was concerned that an earlier Homeland Security inspection of the facility was cursory, did little to verify the company’s safety information and conflicted with recent findings by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The 20-acre facility includes two 80-foot-high storage tanks capable of holding up to 25 million gallons of liquefied petroleum gas, such as highly flammable butane and propane.

Built more than 40 years ago under an industrial zoning from World War II, the site is about 1,000 feet from homes that existed before construction of the tanks. Residents, local activists and elected officials contend the facility is unsafe and fear a major explosion would destroy the nearby community.

“We have faced rejection, rebuke and dismissal at every turn in our quest to address this extreme hazard,” said Janet Schaaf-Gunter of San Pedro and the group Peninsula Homeowners United.

Officials of Rancho LPG, a unit of Houston-based Plains All American Pipeline, say the tanks are well-maintained and equipped with an array of safety measures, including monitors, sprinkler systems, automatic shut-off valves and dikes to contain a gas spill.

In his letter, Waxman mentioned the preliminary findings of an ongoing EPA investigation, which show the company has not provided its emergency response plan to local public safety agencies and has failed to assess the risk of its rail storage area or plan for earthquakes.

In addition to Waxman’s request, state Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Redondo Beach) has asked the state fire marshal to investigate and assess the risks of the site.