Category Archives: Martinez CA

Video: Initial report on Chevron Refinery flaring incident released

This short video features Adam Springer, Assistant Director of Contra Costa County’s Hazardous Materials Program, and Contra Costa Supervisor John Gioa addressing the Chevron Refinery’s recent flaring incident. It is about two-and-a-half minutes long and worth a quick watch.

Flaring reported at Martinez refinery day after class action lawsuit proposed

The Martinez Refining Co. is the focus of a joint civil action over its release of heavy-metal laden dust. | Scott Strazzante / The Chronicle.

ABC7, by J. R. Stone, November 29, 2023

MARTINEZ, Calif. (KGO) — Flaring in the form of at least two massive flames could be seen at the Martinez Refining Company for much of Wednesday evening.

This comes just a day after a “proposed class action lawsuit” was filed against the company for past chemical releases during flaring incidents.

Those from the Martinez refinery said there was an operational incident that happened around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. The refinery has issued at least two statements saying that the appropriate agencies were notified, and a community notification was given. Those from the refinery say, “We have been maintaining clean combustion during the flaring, and ground-level air monitoring has shown normal measurements.”

We talked with Mitzi Crawford, who lives about a mile away and saw the flaring.

“Number one, there’s a sound kind of a roaring, sound kind of made my tension like oh – something’s happening – so I just turned to look over towards the refinery and there’s quite a large fire that’s coming out of there. Concerning for the whole neighborhood, if people start to wonder and don’t know why you have asthma and all these other things, chronic conditions such as that they don’t investigate it, it’s concerning to see some of this,” said Crawford.

This flaring comes just a day after a proposed class action lawsuit was filed against the Martinez refinery alleging the location has created a “public nuisance.” Citing Thanksgiving of 2022 when 2,024 tons of “spent catalyst” was released into the community leaving metallic dust on things.

The Contra Costa Health Department is investigating after a flare-up at the Martinez Refinery sent white ash raining down on nearby neighborhoods. | Still from ABC7 footage.

“Is there a belief that it effects anyone’s health?” we asked attorney Blair Kittle.

“I think there is definitely a concern, that is part of what we’re asking for in our suit, to make sure there is medical monitoring. A regime that people can go and find that out for sure at scale paid for by the refinery, so there is definitely a concern,” said Kittle.

Mitzi also sent us this cell phone video showing what appears to be particles in the air. She is concerned about what may have been released. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District says their inspectors are investigating the flaring.

In their statement, the Martinez refinery went on to say that “flares are an essential part of a refinery’s integrated, engineered safety systems, designed to safely manage excess gases through efficient, effective combustion.”

Here is the statement issued by the Martinez Refinery:

“At approximately 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, November 29, an operational incident occurred at the Martinez Refinery that led to flaring that was visible offsite. In following our procedures, appropriate agencies were notified, and we promptly issued a Community Warning System Level 1 notification.

We have been maintaining clean combustion during the flaring, and ground-level air monitoring has shown normal measurements. You are welcome to view real-time measurements at our fenceline air monitoring website: Looking forward, we expect intermittent flaring to continue while our employees address these issues.

Flares are an essential part of a refinery’s integrated, engineered safety systems, designed to safely manage excess gases through efficient, effective combustion. You can learn more about flaring on our website:

We apologize for any inconvenience to our neighbors and thank our employees for their professional response. As always, we have a community inquiry phone number you can call 925-313-3777 or 925-313-3601 during off work hours. Thank you.”

Fire at Martinez refinery injures one, prompts temporary public health advisory

[Note from BenIndy: This incident occurred at the Martinez Renewable Fuels (Marathon) refinery, not the (apparently also) troubled Martinez Refining Company that is currently the subject of a joint civil action brought by the Contra Costa DA and BAAQMD.]

The Martinez Marathon Refinery is pictured in January 2019. | CrystalMage / Shutterstock.

ABC7, Bay City News, November 19, 2023

MARTINEZ, Calif. — Contra Costa Health said on social media at 1:34 a.m. a CCH hazardous materials team was “responding to reports of a fire at Martinez Renewable Fuels (Marathon Refinery) that may affect surrounding areas.”

A public health advisory was issued for Martinez, Pacheco, Concord and Clyde. People were asked to visit Contra Costa Health Department for information.

Shortly after, CCH said on social media it lifted the public health advisory for Martinez, Pacheco, Concord and Clyde. “The fire at Martinez Renewable Fuels is under control,” is said.


CCH said on its website at 3:54 a.m. “Flaring incident at Marathon Martinez that may be seen by the surrounding community.”

An all clear for Martinez, Pacheco, Concord and Clyde” was later issued on the CCH web page.

Contra Costa County Fire Captain George Lang told ABC7 News Sunday morning one person was hurt and airlifted to an area hospital.

The company says they will be investigating the fire to figure out what caused it.

The company issued a statement to ABC7 News writing:

“Marathon Petroleum responders extinguished a fire early this morning at the company’s Martinez renewable fuels facility. One employee was injured and transported to a medical facility. Fenceline air monitoring indicated no off-site impact. Regulatory notifications were made. The safety of our employees, contractors, and the surrounding community is our top priority. An investigation will be conducted to determine the cause of the incident.”

This refinery is not associated with Martinez Refining Company.

Judge halts major Bay Area refinery project for state environmental review

The Phillips 66 San Francisco Refinery in Rodeo. | Photo By Dreamyshade, Wikimedia Creative Commons.

Phillips 66 cannot begin operations at a new California biofuel refinery until Contra Costa County fixes flaws in an environmental analysis of the project.

MARTINEZ, Calif. (CN) — Phillips 66 must halt a plan to start operating a new biofuel refinery in Rodeo, California, after a San Francisco Bay Area judge said the county that approved it must fix legal issues with the project’s environmental report card.

Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Edward Weil ordered Phillips 66 to put on hold what would be one of the world’s largest biofuel refineries, to produce some 800 million gallons of biofuel products per year. The county must show that the project fully complies with environmental review requirements which he found had been violated when authorities first approved it.

Petitioners Communities for a Better Environment and the Center for Biological Diversity asked Weil to vacate his prior judgment and prohibit operations while the county works on the known legal flaws in its environmental analysis of the project. They said Weil’s prior judgment allowed the project’s land use permit to remain in place and failed to enjoin operations while the county proved its compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act — the state’s bedrock environmental protection and community right-to-know law.

The judge said in a tentative order that his prior judgment’s purpose was to allow for construction, not operations, while environmental legal issues are considered. He said that he must consider whether there is any conflict between the statement of decision and the judgment.

“There is, however, a potential conflict between the statement of decision and the judgment because the court allowed the land use permit to remain in place but did not specifically enjoin project operations,” Weil said. “Therefore, the court grants petitioners’ motion to vacate the judgment and to issue a new judgment that specifically enjoins project operations until further order of the court.”

Weil ruled from the bench Thursday to execute the tentative order as his official judgment.

Attorney Kurtis Keller, representing Contra Costa County, declined to comment on the ruling Thursday.

Hollin Kretzmann, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute, lauded Weil’s decision. She noted that construction on the refinery can continue.

“Counties are required to evaluate, disclose and reduce the environmental harms of a project before approving it,” Kretzmann said. “Communities long suffering from refinery pollution have every right to demand maximum protections against toxic emissions and foul odors, and the county needs to secure them.”

The planned refinery is near the Marathon-Tesoro biofuel refinery in Martinez, which itself could eventually produce more than 700,000 gallons per year of biofuel products and become one of the largest biofuel refineries in California. The petitioners say that the two projects would require at least 82,000 truck trips, nearly 29,000 railcars and more than 760 ship and barge visits annually.

That increases pollution, traffic and the risk of spills and accidents from the projects, while generating and processing biofuels that would worsen existing impacts on communities nearby fossil fuel processing plants. The state considers people who live near the refineries to be “disadvantaged” because of their high exposure to pollution from existing industries. The proposed refineries would cement ongoing or increased air and odor pollution for these residents for decades, the petitioners say.

“This is a huge victory for nearby residents who’ve raised serious concerns about pollution that will come from this giant refinery,” said Shana Lazerow, legal director of Communities for a Better Environment. “Allowing this project to operate before the environmental review process is complete would’ve rigged the whole decision in favor of the refinery operator.”

Sara Evall, a student attorney at the Stanford Environmental Law Clinic, said Thursday: “The county is obligated to reassess the project based on community members’ input and an unbiased record. Rights of the public to informed democratic decision-making come before Phillips 66’s bottom line.”

The judge’s prior order, which found that the county had violated the California Environmental Quality Act by approving the biofuel refinery without properly assessing major components or adopting mitigation for odor impacts on local communities, came down this past July.