BP Agrees to Pay Nearly $180 Million to Settle Clean Air Violations

BP Products North America Inc. has agreed to spend more than $161 million on pollution controls, enhanced maintenance and monitoring and improved internal management practices to resolve Clean Air Act violations at its Texas City, Texas, refinery, EPA and the U.S. Justice Department announced. The company also will pay a $12 million civil penalty and spend $6 million on a supplemental project to reduce air pollution in Texas City.

The settlement addresses BP’s noncompliance with a 2001 consent decree and Clean Air Act regulations requiring strict controls on benzene and benzene-containing wastes generated during petroleum refining operations. The company is required to upgrade control equipment and processes used to handle these materials and conduct in-depth audits to ensure compliance and minimize the amount of benzene-containing wastes generated at the refinery. It is estimated that these actions will reduce emissions of benzene and other volatile organic compounds by approximately 6,000 pounds annually.

“At times over the past eight years we have discovered, voluntarily reported, and taken immediate action on instances when we fell short of regulatory standards. The consent decree announced by EPA/DOJ yesterday [Feb. 19] acknowledges this but also builds upon our actions taken over the last several years to control benzene in waste streams,” BP said in a statement.

EPA: BP Put Air Quality, Health at Risk

EPA identified the violations during a series of inspections of the Texas City refinery initiated after a catastrophic explosion and fire in March 2005 that killed 15 people and injured more than 170 others. In October 2007, the company pleaded guilty to a felony violation of the Clean Air Act and agreed to pay a $50 million fine for violations related to the explosion, the largest criminal fine ever assessed against a corporation for Clean Air Act violations. The plea is still under review, and this recent settlement does not address any claims arising from the March 2005 explosion.

“BP failed to fulfill its obligations under the law, putting air quality and public health at risk,” said Catherine R. McCabe, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Today’s settlement will improve air quality for the people living in and around Texas City, many of whom come from minority and low-income backgrounds.”

The settlement requires that BP address violations of Clean Air Act requirements limiting emissions of stratospheric ozone-depleting hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) from leaking cooling appliances. BP will eliminate approximately 51,000 pounds of HCFCs by retrofitting industrial and commercial cooling appliances at Texas City to use non-ozone-depleting refrigerants.

The company also agreed to improve its oversight and management of asbestos-containing wastes generated during routine renovation and demolition activities at the Texas City Refinery.

The company will spend an additional $6 million to reduce air pollution from diesel vehicle emissions in Texas City and the surrounding area. BP will convert approximately 100 diesel municipal vehicles, including several dozen school buses, to operate on compressed or liquefied natural gas and will construct four refueling stations for the converted vehicles. As a result, emissions of particulate matter, nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons from these vehicles will be substantially reduced.

“We are pleased to have achieved this settlement and will work to continue reducing emissions and to ensure regulatory compliance at Texas City,” BP’s statement added.

BP Products North America, headquartered in Warrenville, Ill., operates petroleum refineries in California, Indiana, Ohio, Texas and Washington. The Texas City refinery, the third largest in the nation, has a production capacity of more than 460,000 barrels per day.

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