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Environmentalists skeptical about turning East Bay refineries into biofuel plants

Environmentalists skeptical about turning East Bay refineries into biofuel plants 02:39

MARTINEZ (KPIX) -- Two Bay Area oil refineries looking to convert to processing biofuels are facing what some might consider unlikely opposition.

On the edge of Suisun Bay is Marathon's Martinez refinery. Marathon would like to convert the facility into a renewable fuels manufacturing facility. Environmental groups have filed an appeal.

"56 years I've lived near the refinery," said Pat Hendrickson of Rodeo. "Right across the street from me. I've never had any problems with them."

For some longtime neighbors like Henderickson, the Phillips 66 Refinery in Rodeo is just another neighbor. Several KPIX spoke with Monday said they were not very familiar with the plans to convert this facility to biofuels.

"Well I don't understand, totally, what the difference is going to be," she said. "But I feel like, at this point, there's really not much I can do about it."

"These biofuel projects are a boondoggle," said Hollin Kretzmann of the Center for Biological Diversity. "It's greenwashing, plain and simple. Unfortunately the county has brought into it so far."

The Center is one of more than a dozen environmental groups that have appealed the changes. For example. they reject claims by Marathon that the conversion will significantly lower greenhouse-gas emissions and water use.

"Feedstocks, the soybeans and the corn oil, that are going to have to feed these huge massive facilities have to come from somewhere," Kretzmann said.

The county planning commission has approved the conversions, opponents say that process was faulty. The Board of Supervisors will hear that appeal Tuesday.

"You know, we should not be making decisions on what types of stuff to burn into the air," Kretzmann said of longer-term climate goals. "We should be moving away from this wholesale, and decommissioning these dirty facilities."

"If there was a vote, I'd educate myself on what the difference might be," Hendrickson said of the discussion. "But I don't think there's going to be a vote. What happens happens."

The board will take up the issue Tuesday morning.

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