Home » Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office Joins With Other Agencies To Penalize Martinez Refining Company

Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office Joins With Other Agencies To Penalize Martinez Refining Company


The agencies with various environmental and legal complaints against Martinez Refining Company are teaming up to seek a common penalty against the refinery for issues going back to last year’s Thanksgiving weekend release of more than 20 tons of spent catalyst into the community.

The Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District on Thursday jointly announced a common civil enforcement action that also includes the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and Contra Costa County Health.

All the agencies have notices of violation and enforcement referrals against MRC. They’re working with the refinery to reach an acceptable penalty for the Thanksgiving night 2022 release, as well as at least three smaller chemical releases the past year.

“The goal of this joint effort with the air district is to achieve a resolution that ensures environmental compliance, and to rebuild and foster a safer community for the residents of Martinez,” Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton said.


“We welcome the opportunity to work collaboratively with the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office as we take a comprehensive approach to ensure MRC’s compliance with all air quality regulations,” said Alexander Crockett, chief counsel of the air district. “This partnership combines our prosecutorial resources to help ensure we achieve the best possible results for the residents of Martinez.”

About 9:30 p.m. on Nov. 24, 2022, the refinery released an estimated 20 to 24 tons of “spent catalyst” into the surrounding community until the following morning, when residents found their yards and vehicles covered in metallic dust.

The refinery failed to alert the county health department and the community warning system, both of which are legally mandated within 15 minutes of a release.

County health officials didn’t find out about the release until the following Saturday when alerted to social media posts about the dust.


Initial testing of the Thanksgiving release showed the dust contained elevated levels of aluminum, barium, chromium, nickel, vanadium and zinc, all of which can cause respiratory problems.

The refinery has since apologized and told the City of Martinez it has taken 11 specific corrective actions: two associated with equipment, six associated with refinery procedures, and three associated with better training.

The refinery has also been involved in three smaller releases of “coke dust” that occurred since July. Coke dust is a byproduct of oil refining. The first release, on July 11, lasted less than a minute and created steam with coke dust, which was carried into the community by wind.

The second release was on July 22 and was contained on-site. The third release happened Oct. 6 and was termed by refinery officials as “brief.”


The joint action is a “pre-filing” move and meant to find common ground on a penalty. The conversations between agencies also have included MRC, the district attorney’s office said. It’s not a settlement agreement and is just the first move in finding a suitable penalty.

If the agencies and MRC can’t all find common ground, the DA’s office will likely move forward with charges, the DA’s office said.


Angry American November 17, 2023 - 2:03 PM - 2:03 PM

so much for any thought that fuel will cost less.

Lou November 17, 2023 - 3:55 PM - 3:55 PM

Rampant crime in the county and Becton does this B.S. Just can’t to vote this idiot out

Stupid Should Hurt November 18, 2023 - 5:26 AM - 5:26 AM

Vote her out? The idiots in Contra Costa County just “re-elected” her in the last election.
You can’t fix stupid.

Oh Brother November 17, 2023 - 4:06 PM - 4:06 PM

Cool story. Can we also please start penalizing violent criminals?

Badge1104 November 17, 2023 - 6:50 PM - 6:50 PM

I was going to say, that I’m more afraid of all the criminals out there , than I am of the oil companies. They actually do more damage and pose a greater threat to us citizens than the refineries.

yoyohop November 17, 2023 - 8:38 PM - 8:38 PM

Really I can’t remember the last time a criminal secretly spewed toxic ash in my backyard.

You sound like someone that doesn’t live in Martinez. Yeah it’s all good until its on your door step.

The Wizard November 18, 2023 - 9:35 AM - 9:35 AM

Was the refinery there before you moved in ?

Oh Brother November 18, 2023 - 11:56 AM - 11:56 AM

When you drive by the oil refinery it just screams great place to live. You are 100% right I don’t live by an oil refinery. Common sense

Original G November 17, 2023 - 5:02 PM - 5:02 PM

Revenue source for government fleecing of supposed deep pockets.
At what point does business decide CA is no longer viable and unelected bureaucrats become almost predatory.
There are eight steel can making plants in CA that are supplied by only steel making facility west of the Mississippi River and December 31 that steel mill closes.
CoCo county fined them $4 million.
Deep pockets, right? U.S. Steel said see ya.
What happens next canning season, where do can makers get steel they need to make cans?
For a business to plan and risk capitol there must be regulatory certainty and political stability, neither have existed in this state for over a decade.
600 living wage jobs eliminated along with tax revenue for cities, county and state.
For every job gone there will be 6 – 10 other workers in businesses that provided products and services to steel mill effected.

Atticus Thraxx November 17, 2023 - 7:21 PM - 7:21 PM

That they provide a needed product at great profit doesn’t relieve them of responsibility when they continually and habitually pollute the air water and soil. Air water and soil I would remind you that you share. You like to talk about holding criminals accountable, well here’s some repeat offenders, where’s your outrage now I wonder. Or are you just sticking with brand loyalty and hypocrisy be damned?

Original G November 18, 2023 - 9:17 AM - 9:17 AM

Unelected bureaucrats showing up with a large dollar figure in mind.
Big box hardware stores fined millions because wood being sold wasn’t 2 x 4.
That was fleecing of deep pockets to finance liberal agenda.
IF I owned a large company and CA came-a-fleecing, would close CA operations in a heartbeat.
Loss of tinplate product from Pittsburg plant could adversely effect canned food prices due to import costs.

Original G November 18, 2023 - 6:52 PM - 6:52 PM

Had unelected bureaucrats show up at steel mill truck gate security post, DEMANDING ! ! ! entry.
They’d come aerial photos in hand to investigate an unreported, potentially hazardous, spill.
Piled out of their vans, swarmed half a dozen large puddles of standing liquid, . . . . . . . . . . .
Had rained heavy previous week, puddles were rain water.
Sad faced piled back in their vans and without a “sorry, we screwed up” and drove away.
Holding repeat offenders and responsible criminals, yup am all for it.
Equity ? ? ? ? ?
“Fire – Power – Money”
‘Records Show PG&E Delayed Maintenance On Power Line That Likely Sparked Camp Fire’
Must see . . . . failed equipment
“Delayed Maintenance”
Am still waitin’ for this “equity” thing, DEMs are so fond of throwin’ around, in penalties.

Atticus Thraxx November 17, 2023 - 5:36 PM - 5:36 PM

Start putting people in jail, I bet you get compliance.

Concord74 November 18, 2023 - 9:40 AM - 9:40 AM

Doesn’t Becton have more important cases to pursue without assigning one of her prosecutors to chase deep pockets??! There is no glory in prosecuting civilian crimes like Biden goes after deep pocket clients! Why doesn’t Biden and maybe Becton go after Soros, Swallwell, etc.??
If the surrounding refineries are sued by the State of CA and they either have to lay-off or shutdown who is to blame????

American Citizen November 18, 2023 - 6:49 PM - 6:49 PM

Most of these commenters have likely never been in a refinery and have no idea how hard the oil companies work to remain here in Calif. The state makes it so hard for them to do business and they really try to protect the community, the environment and produce a safe product. I work in one each day. All these people who hate on the oil companies still drive cars. Don’t give me that argument that they drive a Tesla or some other electric car. Guess where the electricity comes from? Generators fired by hydrocarbons.

MAGA SAM November 19, 2023 - 9:23 AM - 9:23 AM

People are dumb. 98% of you fell for the COVID HOAX. Still see people at safeway wearing masks. Still seeing people wearing masks alone in the car.

MAGA SAM November 19, 2023 - 2:05 PM - 2:05 PM

Public employees are servants to us. They have all been educated recently. We alone are their masters.

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