Watch CBS News

Environmentalists sue over Martinez refinery conversion plan

MARTINEZ -- Two environmental groups have sued Contra Costa County over what they say was its "rushed approval of two proposed biofuel refineries in the Bay Area using incomplete and misleading environmental reviews."

Communities for a Better Environment and the Center for Biological Diversity released a statement Wednesday, saying they filed suit Tuesday, challenging "flawed environmental review processes for two giant oil refineries looking to convert from processing crude to producing biofuels from vegetable oil and animal fat feedstocks."

The county board of supervisors on May 3 approved separate plans for Marathon Martinez refinery and Phillips 66 refinery in Rodeo to covert operations from oil refining to that of renewable diesel fuel, renewable fuel gas, and renewable components for blending with other transportation fuels.

Environmental and community groups appealed the county planning commission's approval of each project, saying its environmental impact report was faulty. They also said the county isn't mitigating significant environmental problems the projects could cause, as well as ones left over by decades of oil refining at the site.
Supervisors acknowledged their concerns, but said county staff thoroughly analyzed each plan and the it's time for the county to get busy battling climate change.

The groups say the county's fast-tracked review obscured, underestimated or ignored significant harms to community safety, air quality, public health, wildlife and the climate. They say communities near the refineries are classified "disadvantaged" by the state of California because of their high exposure to pollution from existing industries.

They say the proposals would lock in continued pollution for these residents for decades to come - much of it from the truck, ship and rail cars necessary to transport the fuel.

"After wreaking havoc on the health of California's communities for over a century, big oil is trying to squeeze any last bit of profit they can from these massive, aging, otherwise defunct pieces of polluting fossil fuel infrastructure," said Connie Cho, an attorney for Communities for a Better Environment. "Retrofitting petroleum refineries to produce first-generation food system-based biofuels without a net climate benefit is a corporate oil scam, not a just transition plan."

The board unanimously approved both projects. County staff the plans were consistent with the areas' zoning and county general plan and would improve air quality and reduce the presence of hazard materials in the area.

"We all need to get to electric; we need to get to it as soon as possible," supervisor John Gioia said, during the hearing for the Rodeo project. "The reality is that's not going to happen until later in the 2040s. There will be a need for these types of liquid fuels that have lower carbon intensity." 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.