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Board to host hearings on Husky investigation

Smoke rises from the Husky refinery on April 26 in Superior. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board announced it would hold hearings in Duluth soon after five members of Congress wrote a letter requesting the hearings. (file / News Tribune)

The United States Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board said it will host hearings in Duluth this fall on the Husky Energy refinery explosion and fire.

The hearings were requested in a letter Wednesday by five members of Congress who were concerned about a the presence of a potentially dangerous chemical compound near the April 26 blast site. They referred to a hydrogen fluoride tank located 150 feet away from the blast as a "great public risk to the Twin Ports metropolitan area." Breathing in hydrogen fluoride at high levels, or in combination with skin contact, can cause death from an irregular heartbeat or from fluid buildup in the lungs.

“We share your commitment to an open and transparent investigation of the Husky refinery accident,” interim executive of the Board Kristen Kulinowski wrote. “Once the agency’s appropriation status has been determined for fiscal year 2019, we will begin planning a public meeting this fall in Duluth, Minnesota.”

In a Sept. 26 letter, the Democratic lawmakers — Rep. Betty McCollum, Rep. Rick Nolan, Sen. Tina Smith and Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin — asked the board to consider hosting hearings in response to the April 26 explosion, which caused 36 injuries and the evacuation of much of Superior.

A date and location for the event have not been announced.