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Martinez refinery flares again amid lawsuit

The Martinez Oil Refinery
Ken Lund
Flickr / Creative Commons
The Martinez Oil Refinery

Around 5:40 p.m., the Martinez Refining Company said flaring was occurring, but said it was an "essential" part of safety for the plant's systems. The company said that all appropriate agencies have been notified.

The announcement was made on Facebook, which meant that people in the area of the flaring were free to make comments below the post.

"Another incident for the class action lawsuit," wrote one person.

The commenter was referring to a proposed class-action lawsuit filed Tuesday against the Martinez Refining Company, alleging that it has created a "public nuisance" by releasing chemicals into the surrounding community.

The plaintiffs are being represented by Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy LLP, which released a statement Wednesday night about the flaring.

Blair Kittle, lead attorney at the firm, said in a statement: "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."

On Thanksgiving night last year, the refinery released an estimated 20 to 24 tons of "spent catalyst" into the surrounding community until the following morning, when residents found their yards and vehicles covered in metallic dust.

The refinery failed to alert the county health department and the community warning system, both of which are legally mandated within 15 minutes of a release.

Sunni M. Khalid is a veteran of more than 40 years in journalism, having worked has in print, radio, television, and web journalism.