Air quality district votes to allow Exxon Mobil to restore Torrance refinery

The South Coast Air Quality Management District voted late Saturday to allow Exxon Mobil to fully restore its refinery in Torrance after an explosion at the facility last year. After nearly 12 hours of public comment and expert testimony at Torrance City Hall, the district's board voted 3 to 2 to approve the order.

ExxonMobil will also pay approximately $5 million in penalties for air pollution violations as a result of the 2015 explosion and violations that could occur during the startup of the refinery. Half of the monies will be earmarked for projects to benefit the communities surrounding the Torrance facility.

“We agree with the decision of the South Coast Air Quality Management District Hearing Board and appreciate its hard work and guidance as we work to safely restart the Torrance Refinery,” Exxon Mobil said in a statement.

The public hearing started at 9 a.m. and the board listened for hours as dozens of neighbors of the Torrance  facility testified against the proposal. The board's vote was taken shortly before 9 p.m.

The February 2015 explosion, which triggered state and federal investigations, led to higher gas prices in Los Angeles than the rest of the nation. The fully operational refinery provided a fifth of the refined gasoline capacity in Southern California and 10% of the statewide capacity.

But the explosion prompted neighbors to call for permanently closing the facility after reports revealed that harmful chemicals may have been released as a result of the blast.

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