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L.A. City Council asked to review safety of San Pedro fuel tanks

October 26, 2011 |  2:43 pm

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. Credit: Christina House, For The Times
Citing the pipeline explosion that killed eight people in San Bruno last year, Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jan Perry wants to review the safety of a giant propane and butane storage facility in San Pedro that has been controversial for decades.

The 40-year-old facility, which can store about 25 million gallons of liquefied petroleum gas, is one of the largest and oldest facilities of its type in the United States. Its two 80-foot-tall tanks are located along North Gaffey Street about 1,000 feet from homes. Playing fields and shopping centers are even closer.

Though the owner, Rancho LPG Holdings, has done a risk analysis, Perry says an independent review is necessary and wants the council’s public safety committee to address concerns raised by citizens' groups in the harbor area.

The review, which Perry proposed at Tuesday’s council meeting, would require the Fire Department, emergency management department, building department, and the city attorney’s office to prepare reports on the storage facility. The matter was referred to the public safety committee for further consideration.

While the San Pedro neighborhood is not in Perry’s district, she is running for mayor next year. And the region has had no council representative since Janice Hahn was elected to Congress. A special election to fill the seat is scheduled for Nov. 8.

“Perry’s call for an independent analysis is an extremely critical factor in our effort to achieve a comprehensive study of the facility,” said Janet Shaaf-Gunter of San Pedro and Peninsula Homeowners United.

Community activists have gathered a trove of historical and regulatory documents showing, among other things, that the city permitted the original owner to build the tanks under an industrial zoning dating to World War II.

Other city records and geological maps show the tanks are very close to the active Palos Verdes fault, in an area known for methane gas and unstable ground.

Much of the controversy has revolved around dramatically different predictions of the damage that a fire or explosion at the facility could cause. The company’s worst-case scenario states that the impact would extend no more than a few tenths of a mile, while other assessments claim the damage radius could extend up to 6.8 miles.

RELATED:

Residents revive debate about storage tanks

Blast, fire raze homes in Bay Area neighborhood

NTSB chastises PG&E over San Bruno blast probe

-- Dan Weikel

Photo: 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. Credit: Christina House / For The Times

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