Residents Sue Refinery Over Fears of Poisoned Gardens and Air in Martinez

Residents Sue Refinery Over Fears of Poisoned Gardens and Air in MartinezSource: Google Street View
Tony Ng
Published on November 29, 2023

In Martinez, California, a legal battle has taken root, aiming to confront what many perceive as a harmful legacy of industrial neglect. Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy is leading a class-action lawsuit against the Martinez Refinery, operated by PBF Energy and its subsidiaries, accusing them of polluting the air and soil of Martinez.

Describing years of "obfuscation and secrecy," Joe Cotchett, a representative from the law firm, declared that the lawsuit is a bold step against the refinery, which has attracted federal government attention, including the FBI. Residents, fearful of consuming vegetables grown on their land, like plaintiff Alena Cruz, have dismantled their gardens due to contamination fears. Cruz expressed frustration, stating, "They never say what the problems are and what they are doing to correct them."

Shannon Payne, a resident with deep roots in Martinez, rejected the refinery's offer to replace her garden's soil, considering it a hollow gesture that came too late. According to the law firm, nearly 40,000 people are allegedly facing the consequences of industrial indifference. Blair Kittle from Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy condemned the toxic contamination, stating, "Our clients are pursuing those responsible for toxic contamination of their community. The Refinery played a significant role in releasing toxic chemicals into the homes of nearly 40,000 people."

The residents not only seek acknowledgment but also demand action, urging the refinery's owners to fund medical monitoring to identify and address potential health issues. Following a contamination event in November 2022, residents were advised against consuming homegrown produce, deepening their mistrust and sense of betrayal.

The lawsuit unveils a narrative of repeated chemical incidents, dating back to November and as recent as July, implicating the refinery in a series of toxic breaches. The residents accuse the refinery of creating a public nuisance and causing potential severe medical harm.