Home » Two Martinez Residents Sue Martinez Refining Company

Two Martinez Residents Sue Martinez Refining Company


Two Martinez residents filed a proposed class action lawsuit against Martinez Refining Company, alleging the refinery has created a “public nuisance” by releasing chemicals into the surrounding community.

Martinez residents Alena Cruz and Shannon Payne filed the suit Tuesday in Contra Costa County Superior Court against the Martinez Refining Company LLC, PBF Energy Inc., and PBF Energy Western Region LLC.

Joe Cotchett, a partner at the law firm representing the plaintiffs, said in a statement, “After years of obfuscation and secrecy surrounding the refinery, finally the federal government, including the FBI is looking into this extremely concerning situation.”

On Thanksgiving night in 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.

Since the Thanksgiving release, there’s been at least three smaller releases of “coke dust” 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” in a unit that has since been taken offline. Nevertheless, all three incidents are still being investigated. The Thanksgiving 2022 release is being investigated by the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office.

Lead plaintiff Cruz said in a statement that she removed her vegetable garden, fearing the soil was contaminated.
“They never say what the problems are and what they are doing to correct them,” Cruz said. “We are afraid of what this dust is potentially doing to our children and their health, we don’t even know if it could cause cancer.”


An MRC spokesperson said Wednesday the company doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

The refinery has publicly apologized to the city, saying it wasn’t aware of any public impact until the day after the Thanksgiving release and that it’s taken corrective actions to make sure similar releases don’t happen in the future.

The suit asks MRC to pay for medical monitoring expenses for affected individuals to ensure that any potential negative health effects from the toxic releases are identified and treated.


Original G November 29, 2023 - 3:40 PM - 3:40 PM

City and county allowed residences to be built close to plant, should not they also be sued?
Solution is actually rather simple, shut it down, dismantle equipment and turn land into a park.
City and county can conjure up a utopian fantasy as a solution for loss of tax revenue.
J ust as when U.S. Steel plant ceases operations in Pittsburg in about 30 days.
U.S. Steel is not the first business to cease operations in CA and certainly won’t be the last.
Doubt politicians realize financial blow to area steel plant closing will cause, but they will.
Expect false outrage, surprise, finger pointing, denial of any responsibility in precipitating closure and almost endless whining by liberals.
Steel plant was and is profitable.
Had recently performed upgrades to a reclamation and recycling process facility.
Adding process instrumentation and newest state of the art air monitoring equipment in all over $300,000 in equipment cost.
Parent company decided to cease west coast operations which means reliance upon foreign steel imports.
Political stability and regulatory certainty no longer exist in CA or CoCo county.

Yoyohop November 29, 2023 - 7:13 PM - 7:13 PM

The refinery can be safely run. The track record of the previous owners prove that.

I don’t know if people were actually injured by the Thanksgiving release, but the refinery was hugely negligent. I can’t understand anyone not admitting that much.

The continued mishaps of subsequent months were also problematic. You dont think businesses have an obligation not to kill or sicken their neighbors?

Original G November 29, 2023 - 10:29 PM - 10:29 PM

Shut it down

American Citizen November 30, 2023 - 10:15 AM - 10:15 AM

So where does the natural gas to heat your home come from? The plastic for your Starbucks cup? The diesel to power the generators that produce the electricity for your EV?

Funkyboi November 29, 2023 - 7:52 PM - 7:52 PM

Your outrage at USS closing would be more well spent at who bought the sight. Not at local politics. Amazon bought it. They paid way more than the site was worth. Local politics weren’t pushing for the closing. So what do you have to say about that?

Original G November 29, 2023 - 10:25 PM - 10:25 PM

The fantasy was to use existing rail access and use existing dock cranes to unload container ships. Last information I have from people still working there is, amazon deal evaporated well over a year ago and there is no buyer.
November 10, 2023, seven weeks before closure,
‘Bay Area members of Congress urge US Steel to save steel mill in Pittsburg, preserve jobs’
“Well isn’t that special” (church lady)
WHERE IN THE HE$$ WERE THE MEMBERS OF congress years ago when plant closing was first announced?????
Entirely typical of DEMs, ignore until the last minute the feign outrage.
Voters deserve better that PATHETIC knee JERK do nothing DEM embarrassments.
If only members of congress or their staff had read CLAYCORD they would have known what was going on.
Would appear once again ONLY thing they’re good for, is a day glow press release.
George Miller would have been all over this from first day closure was announced.

Well Folks November 30, 2023 - 8:51 AM - 8:51 AM

G do you know anything about Martinez history. Most of the houses were built in the 1920’s and 30’s by refinery workers so they could walk to work. I bet you never lived in Martinez otherwise you wouldn’t be make such an idiotic statement
I lived over by the refinery from 1981 – 1986 and can tell you that in that time there was at most 3 big flare-ups. There were multiple small burn-offs but not the big flaring that can be seen for miles. Shell was a good neighbor that had a long history in Martinez. The new owners don’t give a flying rats ass about Martinez or anything other than their profits.

Exit 12A November 29, 2023 - 4:56 PM - 4:56 PM

Ambulance-chasing attorneys are at work.

S November 29, 2023 - 5:34 PM - 5:34 PM

and two massive flair ups right now…. been for a while
at benicia state park… my phone camera not the greatest, sorry

Atticus Thraxx November 29, 2023 - 5:41 PM - 5:41 PM

So a refinery can’t be run without poisoning the surrounding community? Other people seem to be able to do it.

Well Folks November 30, 2023 - 8:52 AM - 8:52 AM

Isn’t is amazing how Shell ran the thing from the early 1900’s until they sold without this many issues? This corporation only cares about the mighty holla holla dolla dolla

whatever November 29, 2023 - 6:55 PM - 6:55 PM

Remember when you bought that house in Martinez because it was more affordable than Pleasant Hill? Remember when you bought that house in Martinez because it was more affordable than Walnut Creek?

Remember when you bought that house in Martinez that there was a refinery there that is in the business of refining and has been since 1915? Remember when in 1915 there were more horses and buggies than there were automobiles? Remember that 1915 is 108 years ago and the average age of a home in Martinez is only 42 years old?

Yeah, get over it. It’s been there for generations longer than you’ve been alive. You saw it, you knew it was there and now you want to sue because a refinery is doing refinery things. Use the money you saved by buying a home in the shadow of a refinery to buy yourself some crying towels. I’m embarrassed for Alena Cruz and Shannon Payne. You literally got what you paid for.

Yoyohop November 30, 2023 - 8:09 AM - 8:09 AM

@Whatever, What exactly are you arguing here?
That if you live by a refinery you’ve essentially signed your life away?

Would youn make the same arguement for all commercial enterprises? If you live near a gas station but a leak pollutes the ground water, is it the home owner to blame? If i live by an airport and a drunk pilot crashes into my house, is it my fault because i should have bought a house in Moraga?

The refinery incidents are both worse and more frequent than ever before. You are implying that people are at fault for whatever mistakes a neighboring business makes, in this case, a mistake far beyond what could be anticipated. Wouldn’t impunity make such accidents more frequent, even common, if the business is not held accountable? Perhaps we should all just shake the piggy bank and buy a house in Walnut Creek.

Old timer November 29, 2023 - 8:40 PM - 8:40 PM

I wonder if the people that filed the lawsuit pull up to the gas pump to fill up there cars.I’m sure the refinery was there before they bought there property.A quick way to get money.If there health issues are that serious move away from the refinery.

American Citizen November 30, 2023 - 10:19 AM - 10:19 AM

Chevron Richmond was established in 1902. Shell Martinez soon afterwards. The people complaining about the facility are the same as those who buy a home near an airport and complain about noise.

The products that come from a refinery are essential in our lives. They also sustain thousands of living wage jobs that are directly and indirectly connected to the refinery. This has been in place for many years. Those screaming to shut it down are ignorant and really do not look at the big picture or the facts.

Well Folks November 30, 2023 - 11:39 AM - 11:39 AM

Amazing how Shell ran the facility for over 100 years with few incidents & the new company seems to have weekly incidents. Perhaps the new owners are clueless on his to run it. When Shell sold there was a mass exudus of experienced employees. Hmmmm says a lot

Survey Says... November 30, 2023 - 5:50 PM - 5:50 PM

They should try some Preparation H for all of these flare-ups.

Fed Up December 1, 2023 - 11:01 AM - 11:01 AM

If the owners are not competent to run the facility, the they should find someone that is!

Original G December 1, 2023 - 11:35 AM - 11:35 AM

At some point age of equipment, cost to maintain it plus cost to meet ever changing pollution requirements render operations unprofitable. Believe Shell did cost analysis then factored in CA’s increasingly anti business climate deciding it wasn’t worth it.
Eventually other refiners will see decreasing profit margins, negative DEM political rhetoric, hassle with county and state aren’t worth it and close or sell CA operations.
Then liberals will get more park land and their wish for more bicycle riding as transportation.

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