Refinery Fenceline Communities

Richmond • Rodeo  • Martinez • Pittsburg  • Benicia

We are all in this together!


The very first time that C.R.U.D.E. members laid their eyes on carcinogenic “pet coke” was at a Benicia City Council Meeting.  The wonderful community activist, Marilyn Bardet, brought in a ziplock bag full of the oily powdery, black soot.  It had just been collected off of a couple of railroad ties at an industrial park near the Valero refinery. Pet coke is a by-product of oil refining and is sold to China (like most of California refinery products these days). It contains heavy metals (lead and nickel, for starters) which can cause cancer.  At 2.5 microns, the tiny particulates of pet coke enter lung tissue and cannot be expelled.
Currently, Valero processes and loads pet coke for shipment by train. But now, Valero wants to dramatically increase its capacity to receive Canadian Tar Sands and Bakkan Crude which will increase production of the pet coke product. The project’s EIR is up for review. Benicia has been at the forefront of the stop-crude-by-rail efforts and the organizers there have been the go-to resource regarding oil train issues.
The community has a fantastic blog called The Benicia Independent and have formed a group Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community. The folks in Benicia have been the inspiration for us all and are considered tremendous allies to the folks here in Rodeo and Crockett.


For 10 years, the massive PG and E tanks sat unused. Then… life happened. Hundreds of lovely homes were built adjacent to the tanks. The downtown flourished and came back to life. Unbeknownst to the residents who lived alongside the empty PG and E tanks (which are connected to all the refineries by underground pipelines), the tanks were apparently on the radar screen of the oil infrastructure companyWesPac. The tanks sit between Pittsburg’s deepwater port and railroad tracks. What better spot to bring in explosive dirty crude?

Pittsburg back yard
WesPac tried to push through the stealth project without Environmental Review. They also did not notify the neighbors. The community found out about it and, over a couple of months, collected 4,000 signatures, marched to City Hall, attended City Council meetings and demanded an EIR. The project, suffice it to say, is “under review.”For the most up to date info on the proposed WesPac project, go to the Pittsburg Defense Council website. Click here for the Sunflower Alliance’s great pictures of the march and media coverage.


In 2012, the largest refinery in Northern California exploded. It was the same old story…and the same old recipe for disaster: worker cutbacks, deferred maintenance and aging pipes held together with clamps (the refinery’s go-to solution akin to duct tape). A shelter in place was issued, BART closed down and 11,000 civilians sought medical attention.

chevron black cloud
Chevron released its 4,000 page EIR for its “modernization” project and was trying to lock in dirty crude infrastructure before the new California Air standards are set in place. The community sensed something was up before the EIR was released, though. Chevron, known for pouring millions of “dirty oil money” into local political campaigns, bought up all the billboards in town AND in the BART stations. According to their warm and fuzzy advertising, Chevron is responsible for blue skies, green grass and all the Rosie the Riveters who built the WWII liberty ships in Henry J. Kaiser’s shipyards.
It was so important to Chevron to control public impressions that it sued a Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist for “loss of goodwill and reputational damage” when he highlighted Chevron’s use of RICO (racketeering laws) against the victims of Ecuador pollution caused by Chevron.
Yup, you read that right. The indigenous people of Ecuador are racketeers. Who knew?
Well, in Richmond, Democratic and ecological organizations fought back.
On March 25th, the Richmond City Council passed a resolution calling for increased federal regulations to protect its community from dangerous Canadian Tar Sands and North Dakota Bakken dirty crude by rail (Berkeley passed a similar resolution the same night.) On March 28, Earthjustice filed a lawsuit against Kinder Morgan (crude rail facility in Richmond) and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD). The lawsuit seeks to immediately stop crude-by-rail into Richmond until the project withstands a “full and transparent review” under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The lawsuit was brought on behalf of Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), the Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN), the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
For more information about all things related to Chevron and Big Oil in Richmond, visit the Richmond Progressive Alliance website.


The city of Martinez is home to not one, but two refineries – Shell and Tesoro. In 2013 Tesoro’s executive Greg Goff announced that the Martinez refinery would be bringing in 350,000 barrels per month of volatile Bakken crude.


Tesoro “Golden Eagle” Refinery, built in 190


SHELL Refinery, built in 1915

Thanks to KPIX Channel 5’s intrepid reporter Christin Ayers, our community learned that Bakken oil was being unloaded from the Kinder Morgan rail yard and brought by tanker truck (presumably along Highway 4!) to the Tesoro refinery in Martinez. Our friends at the Natural Resources Defense Council, Communities for a Better Environment, Asian Pacific Environmental Network and the Sierra Club have filed a lawsuit to try and stop this extremely dangerous practice.


Tesoro also has a spotty history of compliance with environmental regulators – after two workers were sprayed with sulfuric acid and sent to the hospital, Tesoro refused to let in the U.S. Chemical Safety Board inspectors because the refinery claimed it was a “minor” incident. The Chemical Safety Board said that no refinery had refused them entry in the entire history of the agency. When regulators finally entered the site, they found that the refinery had lied; the incident was, in fact, a major one involving 84,000 pounds of sulfuric acid!