Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, July 21, 2023


Victoria Bogdan Tejeda, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 844-7103, ext. 303,
Stephanie Safdi, Stanford Law School, (513) 324-1965,

Groups Win Legal Challenges to Massive Bay Area Biofuel Refinery Projects

Flawed Reviews Downplayed Harms to Communities, Environment

MARTINEZ, Calif.— Communities for a Better Environment and the Center for Biological Diversity won legal victories today over Contra Costa County’s approval of two proposed biofuel refinery conversions in the Bay Area. The Superior Court of Contra Costa County found the county relied on incomplete and misleading environmental reviews in violation of the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA.

The court found that the county’s environmental review for one project, the Marathon-Tesoro refinery in Martinez, failed to properly evaluate ways to reduce odors from the refinery. For another project, the Phillips 66 refinery in Rodeo, the court found the county’s review failed to properly assess major project components as well as odor mitigation.

“I’m glad the court agreed with us that the county fell far short in failing to disclose critical information about the negative impacts from these projects,” said Victoria Bogdan Tejeda, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute. “CEQA is California’s bedrock environmental law, meant to provide decisionmakers and the public with vital information. In the face of the significant environmental and community harms these projects would cause, the county’s incomplete reviews were inexcusable.”

For the Phillips 66 project, the judge ordered the county to set aside its environmental review and redo flawed sections. For the Martinez project, the court ordered the county to improve its odor-mitigation measures.

The legal victories address lawsuits the groups filed against the projects last year.

The Phillips 66 refinery in Rodeo would produce more than a billion gallons per year of biofuel products, making it one of the largest biofuel refineries in the world. The Marathon-Tesoro project would produce more than 700,000 gallons per year of biofuel products, making it one of the largest biofuel refineries in California.

Combined, the projects would require at least 82,000 truck trips, nearly 29,000 railcars, and more than 760 ship and barge visits annually, adding to pollution, traffic and the risk of spills and accidents. In addition, generating and processing biofuels generates offensive odors to nearby communities, worsens the climate crisis, and can drive up food prices.

Communities near the refineries are categorized by the state as “disadvantaged” due to their high exposure to pollution from existing industries. The proposed refinery projects would lock in continued air and odor pollution for these residents for decades to come.

“Workers and local residents deserve to lead in shaping the future of the communities they call home,” said Ben Clark, a certified student attorney with the Stanford Environmental Law Clinic who argued the case against Marathon. “We hope that today’s decisions mark a turning point, one that begins to reverse a legacy of fossil fuel harm and advance a just transition to the equitable future that Martinez and Rodeo residents have fought so long and so hard for.”

The Stanford Environmental Law Clinic and Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger LLP represented Communities for a Better Environment and the Center for Biological Diversity. Communities for a Better Environment and the Center for Biological Diversity also served as co-counsel.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

The Environmental Law Clinic at Stanford enables students to provide legal assistance to nonprofit organizations on a variety of environmental issues, focusing primarily on natural resource conservation. The clinic's clients include large national environmental organizations and a variety of regional and local grassroots groups.

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