District Court Upholds California Refinery Safety Law

The United States District Court for the Eastern District of California upheld California’s refinery safety law, Senate Bill 54, which allows refineries to use outside construction contractors to perform onsite work only if those contractors use a skilled and trained workforce. The Legislature found that the use of unskilled workers at the refineries is a threat to public health and safety and to the environment.

Two contractors sought to overturn the law, arguing that it is preempted by the National Labor Relations Act and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, and that SB 54 violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The District Court entered summary judgment for the Defendants, holding that the Plaintiffs lacked standing to pursue their constitutional Equal Protection claim, and that their preemption claims lacked merit. The Court explained that the Legislature has the power to pass laws to protect public health and safety, including SB 54, which was passed in the wake of the 2012 explosion at the Chevron refinery in Richmond, California.

Altshuler Berzon LLP represented the State Building and Construction Trades Council, which intervened on the side of the State to defend the law.