Exxon given go-ahead to restart California refinery

Exxon given go-ahead to restart California refinery
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State regulators have signed off on ExxonMobil’s plan to restart a refinery in Torrance, Calif., which closed after an explosion last year. 

The South Coast Air Quality Management District voted 3-2 this weekend to allow the facility to reopen, the Los Angeles Times reports. Exxon will be required to pay a $5 million fine for air pollution violations that followed the explosion. 

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Exxon’s Torrance facility suffered an explosion in February 2015, with nearby residents being told to shelter in their homes, turn off air conditioning systems and close their windows as a result. 

The explosion led to higher gas prices in Los Angeles than elsewhere in the country, the Times reports. The refinery is designed to provide a fifth of the refined gasoline capacity in Southern California and 10 percent of the statewide capacity. 

Local residents, though, were concerned after the explosion and asked for the facility to be permanently closed. Before the Air Quality Management District’s Saturday night vote, it heard hours of testimony from nearby residents opposed to Exxon’s restart proposal. 

PBF Energy announced last fall that it would look to acquire the refinery should it return to operations. Both companies said they plan to close the deal by the middle of the year. 

"PBF is a competitive, growth-oriented, merchant refiner that is excited to be expanding into Southern California," spokesman Michael Karlovich told the Times.

"After we purchase the Torrance refinery, we will begin selling into an established wholesale market, so having a new merchant refiner in the region ... should further increase competitiveness."