BP Products Paying $15 M Penalty for Texas Refinery

The Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Justice Department on Sept. 30 announced BP Products North America Inc. will pay yet another large penalty, $15 million, related to its Texas City, Texas refinery, which an explosion in March 2005 killed 15 people and brought a record OSHA fine. A consent decree (pdf) spelling out the violations and the $15 million civil penalty has been filed in a Houston federal court.

EPA said this is a record civil penalty for Clean Air Act violations at an single facility and a record for civil violations of the Clean Air Act's risk management program regulations. The violations were found in inspections that began after the explosion, according to the agency.

"BP's actions at the Texas City refinery have had terrible consequences for the people who work there and for those in nearby communities," Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, said in the agency's news release. "Today's settlement, in conjunction with other actions already taken by EPA and other federal agencies at Texas City, demonstrates the agency's continuing commitment to actively and vigorously working to hold BP accountable and to make them comply with our nation's environmental protection laws wherever the company operates."

"The Clean Air Act is intended to prevent not only accidents like the fatal March 2005 accident, it also penalizes accidents like these three that result from poor practices and cause air pollution," said Ignacia S. Moreno, assistant attorney general in the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "This settlement emphasizes the serious nature of the fires and releases of hazardous air pollutants that occurred at BP's Texas City Refinery and puts industry on notice that the Department of Justice and the EPA will aggressively pursue those who fail to comply with the laws that protect our environment."

The settlement is subject to court approval, and a 30-day comment period on it has begun. It covers violations stemming from fires at the refinery on March 30, 2004, and July 28, 2005, and a leak that occurred on Aug. 10, 2005. It resolves allegations that BP did not identify all regulated hazardous air pollutants used at the refinery in plans submitted to EPA, which agreed in a February 2009 settlement with BP to allow the company to spend more than $161 million on pollution controls, maintenance, and monitoring to resolve clean air violations. By EPA's count, BP Products is spending more than $2 billion on fines, corrective actions, and improved safety measures at the refinery because of federal actions since the explosion.