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Select Assembly Group Targets Refineries : Panel Created to Study Chemical Risks

March 26, 1989|GEORGE STEIN | Times Staff Writer

Assembly Speaker Willie Brown has created an eight-member select committee of legislators to recommend how to protect workers and surrounding communities from dangers posed by oil refineries, chemical plants and pipelines.

The committee, which Brown (D-San Francisco) announced recently, has a mandate to examine safety problems statewide, but Assemblyman Dave Elder (D-San Pedro), who will be its chairman, said the panel initially will focus on the South Bay. The heavily 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."

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

No Industry Comment

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-Baldwin Park), Byron D. Sher (D-Palo Alto), Thomas M. Hannigan (D-Fairfield), Carol Bentley (R-El Cajon) and Frank Hill (R-Whittier).

Elder said he became "sensitized" to pipeline safety in December, 1980, when an eight-inch pipeline carrying naphtha under 900 pounds of pressure per square inch blew up on Gale Avenue in Long Beach, four houses away from where he had lived as a child. The blast damaged 40 cars and 20 houses.

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