BP Products North America Inc. will pay the state of Texas $50 million for unlawfully emitting pollutants during and after a March 2005 explosion at the company’s Texas City refinery, according to the Texas Attorney General’s Office.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announced that the settlement agreement resolves enforcement actions against BP brought by the AG’s office in June 2009. BP had been charged with violating state environmental protection laws.
According to the 2009 enforcement action, BP was responsible for 72 separate — and unlawful — pollutant emissions that have been occurring every few months since March 2005. An explosion and related fires erupted at BP’s Texas City refinery in March 2005 that claimed 15 lives and injured more than 170 workers.
The state’s 2009 legal action against BP stemmed from a referral from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which regulates and permits emissions at Texas refineries. After the AG’s office filed its original legal action against BP, the TCEQ submitted a second, related referral against BP Products.
According to TCEQ investigators, multiple Texas Clean Air Act violations occurred at the Texas City refinery between April 6 and May 16 of 2010. As a result, the AG’s office filed a second enforcement action and charged BP with illegally emitting approximately 500,000 pounds of harmful air pollutants in Texas City.
Under the current proposed agreement, BP Products is required to pay $50 million to the state of Texas. That amount includes $500,000 in costs that the AG’s office incurred while pursuing the state’s enforcement actions. The remainder of the $50 million reflects civil penalties that will be deposited in the state treasury.
U.S. safety regulators in November 2009 hit BP with a record $87.4 million fine for failing to fix safety violations at the Texas City refinery after the deadly 2005 explosion, Reuters reported.
Although BP contested the fine, saying it had honored an agreement to fix the safety problems of the plant, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration said a portion of the fine was for new violations.
Of the fine, $56.7 million was for 270 instances of failure to abate problems found in 2005. The remaining $30.7 million was for 439 new willful violations of industry process safety standards, OSHA said.
In October 2007 the U.S. Department of Justice announced that BP and several of its subsidiaries agreed to pay approximately $373 million in fines and restitution for environmental violations. The sanctions stem from a the 2005 explosion at a Texas City refinery explosion, leaks of crude oil from pipelines in Alaska, and fraud for conspiring to corner the market and manipulate the price of propane carried through Texas pipelines, the DOJ said.