A $10 billion toxic tort class action lawsuit has been filed against BP over alleged emissions from its troubled Texas City oil refinery, alleging that workers and residents in the area were exposed to benzene and other chemicals.
More than 2,200 workers at the refinery and residents from the surrounding area filed the BP class action lawsuit on August 3 in the Galveston Division of the Southern District of Texas. The complaint alleges that for 40 days earlier this year, the company illegally released the chemical benzene into the atmosphere.
The benzene lawsuit comes just as BP, formerly known as British Petroleum, was finally able to stop the flow of oil from a well a mile under the surface of the Gulf of Mexico, which has caused a massive oil spill that is expected to cost the company tens of billions of dollars in oil spill lawsuits and clean up costs.
Plaintiffs in the BP Texas City refinery class action lawsuit say the company has been releasing benzene into the atmosphere at the plant due to a hydrogen compressor that broke down on April 6. The 2,212 plaintiffs allege that they suffered serious injuries and illnesses from benzene exposure.
Benzene is an industrial chemical that has been linked to the development of cancer, leukemia and other life-threatening health problems. It is a known carcinogen used as an industrial solvent in the production of plastic and synthetic rubber, as well as drugs and dyes.
BP’s Texas City Refinery is the third-largest oil refinery in the United States, and has been the subject of several major safety incidents. As recently as September, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration hit BP with an $87.4 million fine for not complying with a safety agreement made after a March 23, 2005 explosion and fire that killed 15 workers and injured more than 170 others.
In February 2009, BP Products North America agreed to pay $180 million to resolve a separate environmental lawsuit over benzene emissions at the oil refinery. That case involved violations of a 2001 consent decree and Clean Air regulations which were identified during inspections by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) following the March 2005 blast.
Under the terms of that settlement, BP agreed to spend $161 million to address their Clean Air Act violations by setting up better pollution controls, enhanced maintenance and monitoring devices and improving their internal management practices. Another $6 million was designated to fund a project to reduce air pollution in Texas City and $12 million was paid as a penalty.