Home » Contra Costa Seeks Volunteers For Oversight Of Martinez Refinery Release Investigation

Contra Costa Seeks Volunteers For Oversight Of Martinez Refinery Release Investigation


Contra Costa County seeks community volunteers for a committee to oversee an independent investigation and risk assessment of the Nov. 24-25 release of heavy metals into the surrounding community by Martinez Refining Company (MRC).

The oversight committee will advise the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors and Contra Costa Health’s (CCH) Hazardous Materials Program on the hiring of contractors to probe the cause of the release, and separately the impact that it had on community health and the environment. The committee will review and direct the work as it proceeds and is ultimately reported to the Board and the public.

The Ad Hoc Committee for the Industrial Safety Ordinance and Community Warning System, a subcommittee of the Board of Supervisors, directed CCH at its Jan. 12 meeting to lead the community-involved investigation and risk assessment, parallel to the investigation MRC is legally required to conduct.

The nine-member oversight committee will be chaired by a Hazardous Materials Program staff member and include representatives from the City of Martinez, MRC, the labor organizations representing MRC workers, and five at-large members from Martinez, Pacheco, or other communities near the refinery.


From about 9:30 p.m. Nov. 24, 2022, to the early hours of Nov. 25, MRC inadvertently showered surrounding neighborhoods with more than 20 tons of spent catalyst, a dust-like substance that CCH later determined to contain elevated levels of aluminum, barium, chromium, nickel, vanadium and zinc.

MRC did not report the release via the county Community Warning System or directly to CCH as required by the county’s notification policy, preventing an immediate regulatory response or prompt safety messaging to affected neighbors. CCH has referred that matter to the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office for consideration of legal action.

To apply for an at-large seat on the committee, fill out the online form at or send an email to including your name, address, and a brief statement about why you wish to participate, or phone 925-655-3200 for assistance.

Community members who are 18 or older and who live near Martinez, Pacheco, and surrounding unincorporated areas will be considered. Committee members will be selected by Supervisor Federal Glover’s office. The deadline to apply is Friday, Jan. 27.



Original G January 18, 2023 - 5:01 PM - 5:01 PM

Hopefully they’ll get someone with years of experience in design and building of process control systems and equipment, along with experience in process control instrumentation.
Takes an alert mind to understand, measure, control a process and make it SAFE.
An someone who is willing to endure sitting thru root cause analysis process.
Been there, done that and am too dang old to put up with it again.

Exit 12A January 18, 2023 - 6:15 PM - 6:15 PM

Bureaucratic! A process to prepare and recommend more process.
Sounds like the BOS will have a group to blame if things do not succeed.
By the way, MRC should pay for the consultant(s) who investigate and prepare the report.

yoyohop January 18, 2023 - 7:23 PM - 7:23 PM

Its not just the toxic ash that bothers me, but that they didn’t take accountability. Even later incidents, they blamed a raccoon and then the following incident was blamed on the rain. There would be no need for ad hoc committees if the industry policed themselves.

Original G January 19, 2023 - 1:24 AM - 1:24 AM

On the raccoon shorting out capacitor bank, at those voltages your power distribution is going down. Process is interrupted due to pumps, etc shutting down, loss of power means instrumentation and controlling PLCs will drop unless they’re on a robust uninterruptible power supply.
Had small animal take down LARGE industrial process plant years ago. Took hours to get back up and operating.
After downstream loads are shed (turned off) and fault condition is cleared, then you begin restoring power in a SAFE manner, so you don’t end up with a boom and large hole in the ground. Refineries take a while to return to safe and stable operating state.
It’s unfortunate county types weren’t notified (hurt feelings?) . . .
Funny thing about refineries they don’t start and stop like an appliance.
There are very high pressures with highly explosive liquids and gases involved.
Do imagine those onsite at time of the emergency were way more preoccupied with trying to make sure that part of Martinez remained on the map.

yoyohop January 19, 2023 - 8:14 AM - 8:14 AM

There’s a lot more at stake than “hurt feelings” when 20 tons of spent catalyst gets blown over a small town – soil and water contamination for starter.

As far as the raccoon, if it a foreseeable hazard then there should be safeguards in place. At the very least it should have been explained why it is impossible to put in safeguards. But instead there was a brush off. Likewise with a later incident where fumes emanated from Martinez all the way to Crockett.

In the emergency scenario you describe, it should never be the case that there is no one left to alert the community, especially if there is the potential for a major explosion. If a refinery or any industry isn’t capable of warning a community on the cusp of disaster then it is, by definition, “unsafe” and should be restructured.

parent January 19, 2023 - 3:05 PM - 3:05 PM

Please learn about emergencies and how they are handled by professionals.
Your theatrics, ‘cusp of disaster’, is inflammatory to the general public and is really uncalled for and only serves to stir up the general public.
EPA says Spent Catalysts are non hazardous one they are converted via TDU. If you are really worried about the hazardous materials, quit driving your electric car, using batteries of any sort, pulling any type of solar energy and burning anything for heat.

Original G January 19, 2023 - 4:21 PM - 4:21 PM

Refinery operations these days are highly automated, onsite personal are at a minimum.
There are not people walking around physically looking at gauges on process equipment and hand operating valves in the field. Most valves are automated, often using air pressure to change state with indicating electrical switches reporting state of the valve back to equipment (PLCs) controlling the process. There are valves chosen that can change state when power is lost, fail open or fail close, those are specified by engineers completely familiar with process and dangers.
Worked at Chevron Richmond in early 1970s and they were changing over to automated remote control valves.
In case of material release, first off information not provided was threshold level and amount above safe levels detected.
Years ago, don’t know if it was state or CoCo people mentioned above, group showed up demanding admittance to inspect pollution. Suspect they relied on aerial or satellite photos.
Were escorted to area of their “spill” which turned out to be pools of standing rain water.
With ZERO apology they piled back into their black SUVs and were escorted out.
Both county and state are using pollution regulations to generate millions of dollars from “deep pockets”.
In 2024 and beyond you’ll be able to listen to city and county leaders moan about loss of tax revenue because owner of the profitable steel plant in Pittsburg decided CA is too expensive and business unfriendly to do business in.
600 LIVING WAGE UNION JOBS GONE FOREVER along with millions and millions in tax revenue.

Bella January 18, 2023 - 7:26 PM - 7:26 PM


JG27 AD January 19, 2023 - 10:45 AM - 10:45 AM

When Shell owned the refinery the environmental team did a great job in handling/reporting any excess flaring, any spills to land or water or other releases. That PBF apparently failed to report this incident in a timely manner is a puzzle to this retired operator.

The Wizard January 19, 2023 - 1:46 PM - 1:46 PM

Great place for a cat house to open up in. Its in the red light district.

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