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Texas Oil Refinery Lawsuit Filed Over Exposure to Benzene and Other Chemicals

A toxic tort lawsuit has been filed on behalf of 143 people who worked at or lived near an oil refinery owned by BP America in Texas City, alleging that they were exposed to benzene and other harmful chemicals that were released into the air in April 2007.

The lawsuit was filed in the 122nd District Court in Galveston, Texas against BP Products North America and BP America, alleging that benzene and other harmful chemical such as aluminum silica were released into the air surrounding the Texas City oil refinery starting on April 10, 2007.

For people who worked or lived nearby, this caused foul smells, noticeable change in air quality and various personal injuries for the 143 plaintiffs.

According to the Galveston County Daily News, attempts to obtain information on the chemical composition of the emissions were not immediately successful and it is unknown how many of the plaintiffs covered by the toxic tort lawsuit have required medical treatment.

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.

In February 2009, BP Products North America agreed to pay $180 million to resolve a separate environmental lawsuit over benzene emissions at the same Texas City 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 an explosion and fire at the plant in March 2005.

Under the terms of the 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.

The settlement with the EPA did not resolve any of the personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits that the company faces as a result of the March 23, 2005 explosion, which killed 15 workers and injured more than 170 others.

Benzene exposure at the Texas City Oil Refinery has also been linked to cases of cancer and leukemia for workers. In February 2009, BP was one of several defendants sued by in a benzene lawsuit filed by a former employee who worked at the plant for 30 years and developed chronic lymphocytic leukemia from the solvents and chemicals used at the refinery.

The complaint alleged that BP and the other defendants negligently failed to adopt safety precautions and failed to provide employees with information about the hazardous chemical, despite knowledge of the health risks posed by benzene exposure.

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