US-based petroleum refinery company Phillips 66 has been ordered by the Contra Costa County Superior Court to halt its plans related to a new biofuel refinery in Rodeo, California.

Communities for a Better Environment and the Centre for Biological Diversity challenged Contra Costa County’s approval of the biofuel refinery megaproject in the Bay Area.

In July this year, the court found that the county violated California’s environmental protection law, by approving the Phillips 66 biofuel refinery based on misleading environmental reviews.

The environmental reviews were incomplete, lacking major components of the project, and adopting mitigation measures for significant impacts on local communities, the order said.

The court ruled that the refinery operations are prohibited until the county completes its new review, provided the public is given a chance to provide comments.

Communities for a Better Environment legal director Shana Lazerow said: “This is a huge victory for nearby residents who’ve raised serious concerns about pollution that will come from this giant refinery.

“Allowing this project to operate before the environmental review process is complete would’ve rigged the whole decision in favour of the refinery operator.”

The Phillips 66 refinery in Rodeo, which would be one of the world’s largest biofuel refineries, is expected to produce more than a billion gallons of biofuel products each year.

The state considered the communities neighbouring the refineries as ‘disadvantaged’ due to their high exposure to pollution from existing industries.

The Stanford Environmental Law Clinic and Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger served as legal representatives for Communities for a Better Environment and the Centre for Biological Diversity, which also served as co-counsel.

Centre for Biological Diversity Climate Law Institute attorney Hollin Kretzmann said: “The court rightly rejected Phillips 66’s outlandish request to start this mega-polluting project before the review is done.

“Counties are required to evaluate, disclose, and reduce the environmental harms of a project before approving it.

“Communities long suffering from refinery pollution have every right to demand maximum protections against toxic emissions and foul odours, and the county needs to secure them.”