BP Refinery Pollution Violations Result in $15M Clean Air Act Penalty
BP will pay $15 million to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for violations of federal air pollution laws that occurred at its Texas City oil refinery.
The EPA announced the BP Clean Air Act civil penalty on September 30. The penalty resolves violations found during inspections that followed a March 23, 2005 explosion at the refinery that killed 15 workers and injured 170 others. It is the largest civil penalty ever paid by a single facility for Clean Air Act violations, according to the EPA.
The violations include two fires that occurred at the refinery on March 30, 2004 and July 28, 2005, and a leak that occurred on August 10, 2005, but it was the explosion earlier that year that brought the facility to the attention of EPA inspectors. The inspections turned up a recurring problem with the facility’s ability to prevent releases of benzene into the air; a problem that still appears to plague the refinery.
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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 the 2005 explosion.
BP has already been forced to spend more than $161 million on pollution controls following the incident, paid a $12 million civil penalty and has paid $6 million in supplemental air pollution reduction projects.
The penalty does not include potential penalties the company may face as a result of a recent release of chemicals that occurred earlier this year, which is currently under investigation by EPA.
As a result of the alleged benzene release that occurred for 41 days in April and May 2010, BP already faces a $10 billion toxic tort class action lawsuit that was filed by more than 2,200 workers at the refinery and residents from the surrounding area. The lawsuit was filed in August in U.S. District Court in the Galveston Division for the Southern District of Texas, by plaintiffs who allege that they suffered serious injuries and illnesses from benzene exposure.
The newest fines come as the federal government and states are also assessing the potential damages BP may owe as a result of the massive Gulf oil spill that started in April after an explosion and fire on the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig. As a result of the alleged negligence of BP and other companies, nearly five million barrels of toxic oil were released in to the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, impacting several states, including Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida.
Late last week, Oregon State University researchers reported that the amounts of some carcinogens in the Gulf of Mexico had skyrocketed following the oil spill. They found that the amount of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were 40 times their normal levels in the aftermath of the oil slick. However, state and federal investigators could not confirm the researchers findings, and said their own tests had shown only trace amounts of PAHs.
PAHs are found in significant quantities in natural crude oil and coal and many of them are highly carcinogenic. Prenatal exposure to PAHs has also been linked to reduced intelligence in newborns.
Oil spill lawsuits against BP have been filed by shrimpers, oyster farmers, resorts and other businesses claiming that the man-made catastrophe has caused them to suffer economic loss. There are also lawsuits filed by states and environmental groups who are suing for damages over the environmental impact, and lawsuits from property owners whose beaches are now covered with tar balls and the corpses of fish and fowl dying as a result of the contamination from oil and dispersants used to break it up. In addition, there have been a number of Deepwater Horizon wrongful death lawsuits filed by family members of workers who died on the rig.
In August, 77 federal oil spill lawsuits were consolidated into a multidistrict litigation (MDL) under U.S. District Judge Carl J. Barbier in New Orleans. In addition to the 77 initial lawsuits, some experts say there are as many as 200 other “tag along” lawsuits that are likely to be included at some point as well.
LauraOctober 4, 2010 at 8:29 pm
BP is about to launch its new BPCares website. In a stunning move by BP last month, they decided to fight fire with their new BPCares website. The first task was to acquire all of the BPCares domains... mission accomplished! The domains are as follows: BPCares.com BPCares.net BPCares.org BPCares.info BPCares.us BPCares.biz Inside sources indicates that the BPCares website will attempt to point cr[Show More]BP is about to launch its new BPCares website. In a stunning move by BP last month, they decided to fight fire with their new BPCares website. The first task was to acquire all of the BPCares domains... mission accomplished! The domains are as follows: BPCares.com BPCares.net BPCares.org BPCares.info BPCares.us BPCares.biz Inside sources indicates that the BPCares website will attempt to point critics of BP that the goal moving forward is 'Beyond Petroleum', more to 'Amoco' for its future. The new website will be launched soon. .
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