A pair of state Senate committees will hold a joint hearing in Torrance next week to discuss the recent explosion at the ExxonMobile refinery, the response by emergency crews and the impact on the community.
The Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee will meet in conjunction with the Environmental Quality Committee at Torrance City Hall on Thursday to discuss the Feb. 18 blast that injured four people.
According to Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon’s office, the hearing will focus on the response by emergency crews and air quality agencies, the refinery’s safety record, the impact on the community and the safety of the state’s energy infrastructure.
In late March, the Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee will hold a joint meeting with the Senate Transportation Committee to discuss the impact on gas prices from the blast and other refinery troubles in the state. That hearing will focus on ways to protect consumers from “volatility of oil prices, including diversifying fuel choices,” according to de Leon’s office.
Officials from the Santa Monica-based public-advocacy group Consumer Watchdog have been pushing for the state to investigate recent refinery shutdowns to determine if they were necessary or an attempt to drive up gas prices. The group pointed to a Feb. 6 shutdown of a Tesoro refinery in the Bay Area — attributed to a steelworkers’ strike — and a Feb. 16 shutdown of the ExxonMobile refinery in Torrance, which was blamed on a mechanical failure.
“Gas prices have gone up 70 cents so far since refineries started shutting down and it is high time we had refinery executives on the hot seat to answer questions,” said Liza Tucker of Consumer Watchdog. “We have a long list of questions. If the Senate doesn’t get the answers they are asking for, we are hoping they will issue subpoenas.”
— City News Service