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Cotchett Pitre & McCarthy Files Suit Against Martinez Refinery on Behalf of Martinez Residents Over Toxic Chemical Releases Into The Community

Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy (“CPM”) filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of Martinez residents Alena Cruz and Shannon Payne, seeking to represent all individuals who reside in the City of Martinez and the surrounding communities against the Martinez Refinery—including PBF Energy Inc., PBF Energy Western Region LLC, and Martinez Refining Company LLC.

Joe Cotchett, name partner at Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, the law firm representing the Plaintiffs, said, “After years of obfuscation and secrecy surrounding the refinery, finally the federal government, including the FBI is looking into this extremely concerning situation.

Lead Plaintiff Alena Cruz stated about the Refinery’s toxic chemical releases: “They never say what the problems are and what they are doing to correct them. We are afraid of what this dust is potentially doing to our children and their health, we don’t even know if it could cause cancer.” Ms. Cruz took out her vegetable garden recently over fears that the Refinery’s releases were contaminating her garden.

Lead Plaintiff Shannon Payne, a lifelong resident of Martinez, 4th generation Martinez citizen and direct descendant of the founding “Martini” family, is greatly concerned about the refinery’s toxic releases. The only notice Ms. Payne received from the refinery of the toxic release was when refinery representatives knocked on her door months after the November release and offered to pay for replacement soil in her garden. Ultimately, she stopped growing plants in her family garden rather than accept the Refinery’s offer.

Blair Kittle, of CPM, the law firm representing the Plaintiffs, said, “We filed our lawsuit to stop repeated releases of unnecessary pollution from this refinery. Hearing that the refinery is flaring just a day after we filed is extremely concerning and highlights the need for the county and state to step in immediately and take control of the refinery. Exposure to toxic chemicals creates a health and safety disaster for the community. This is one more example of the uncontrollable situation for people living in the community and can no longer be tolerated. The FBI has been investigating The Refinery for months. If the county or state can't do anything about this, the Feds will.

The Residents’ suit against the owners of the Refinery stems from the Refinery’s release of petroleum coke dust, spent catalyst and other toxic chemicals into the surrounding community going back to November of 2022 and July of 2023 and other previous times. The suit alleges that the Defendant owners have created a public nuisance by releasing toxic chemicals into local communities doing potentially severe medical harm. The suit further alleges the failures of the owners of the Refinery to prevent toxic chemical release, and failures to properly notify residents, the government, and other stakeholders when toxic releases have occurred.

The suit demands that the owners of the Refinery pay for medical monitoring expenses for affected individuals to ensure that any potential negative health effects from the toxic releases are identified and treated. Only months after the Refinery released toxic chemicals into the surrounding community, were local residents advised not to eat locally grown fruits or vegetables exposed to the November 2022 incident. The FBI and other local and federal agencies are investigating.

About Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, LLP

Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, LLP engages exclusively in litigation and trials and has earned a national reputation for its dedication to prosecuting or defending socially just actions. To learn more about the firm, visit


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