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Published on December 27, 2023
Contra Costa Health Surprises Martinez Refinery with Spot Inspection Amidst Safety ScaresSource: Contra Costa Health

In a bold move to safeguard the community, Contra Costa Health ramped up pressure on local refinery operations, infiltrating the Martinez Refining Company with an unannounced inspection. Owned by PBF Energy, PBF's facility found itself under the microscope as officials scoured the space for safety protocol infractions and equipment reliability following a series of chemical spills and accidents.

The exacting scrutiny came in accordance with the county's Industrial Safety Ordinance, which has given PBF no choice but to open doors and books to inspectors, especially after documenting a troubling 21 hazardous material incidents this year alone. In the wake of these events, PBF's weekly flaring activities—emergency measures to avoid graver dangers—have also set off alarms, with alerts regularly pinging the county's Community Warning System.

"Repeated commitments to the community and to regulators to improve the culture of safety at PBF have not resulted in improvement," Contra Costa Supervisor Federal Glover told in a statement that resonated throughout his district—the refinery's home. Holding feet to the fire, the regulatory bodies are pushing for PBF to make the necessary investments to turn its act around.

The show of regulatory force doesn't end with local officials. Discontent reaching a crescendo, the County Board of Supervisors chair and vice-chair are set to confront PBF's higher-ups before the week buckles. On Thursday, John Gioia and Glover, two top watchdogs, intend to drive home their point: PBF's operational methods need an overhaul. And backing them, Bay Area Air Quality Management District staff are standing by to cast their critical gaze over the refinery's maintenance records, safety training, and response protocols—a no stone unturned approach to bring the company to the heel.

Details of the inspection and findings will be forthcoming, as Contra Costa Health has committed to transparency by vowing to update the public through its website.