Healthy Martinez Still Fighting for Refinery Accountability and Clean Air

Heidi Taylor

In July, Martinez experienced two known releases of spent catalyst from the Martinez Refining Company without any warning, making this the third occasion within the short span of eight months. This is concerning, especially in light of the ongoing criminal investigation for their failure to report the Thanksgiving spent catalyst incident. The refinery must be more diligent to stop these continuous actions that harm our community.

Although Contra Costa County Health has assured the community that these releases of petroleum coke dust do not pose significant, long-term health risks (, it doesn't excuse the refinery from their failure to promptly activate the County's community warning system as required. Distressed residents were left waiting without any official information, resorting to social media to share alarming posts and provide photographic evidence of the mysterious black dust covering previously clean cars. Some even tried to seek clarity from the refinery, only to be dismissively told that the material was nothing more than "soot."

These repeated failures by the Martinez Refining Company to proactively and transparently report incidents raise serious doubts about their commitment to environmental safety and public health. It suggests that they may only take action when pressured by public outcry or that they lack the ability to detect such releases when they occur – both of which put our community at significant risk.

Healthy Martinez has been working hard to speak out about the injustice happening in our community. On Wednesday, July 19th, several members of this group presented Martinez City Council with a proposed resolution to hold the refinery accountable and ensure community safety is prioritized. This resolution demands that the refinery install a wet gas scrubber and drop their lawsuit against the Bay Area Air District. For context, the refinery currently emits 300 tons of PM2.5 pollution every year, and a wet gas scrubber would reduce those emissions by as much as 70 percent. The refinery’s lawsuit that fights the Air District’s rule is delaying implementation of equipment, policies and procedures designed to keep our communities safe. The Martinez Refining Company needs to invest in this community now.

We strongly encourage you to stay informed about the situation and attend oversight committee meetings (, bookmark the City’s refinery information page (, and sign up for City and County alerts ( and, respectively). You can learn more about the proposed resolution at We believe this resolution is crucial to holding the refinery accountable for their actions and ensuring that our community's safety remains a top priority.

Take action now by reaching out to your City Councilmember and the Mayor. Let them know that you stand with your fellow community members in demanding greater transparency and accountability from the Martinez Refining Company. Your voice matters, and together, we can make a difference in safeguarding our community and holding the refinery accountable. Let's unite and advocate for a safer, healthier Martinez.

Heidi Taylor is a member of the Healthy Martinez Refinery Accountability Group.