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BP Texas City Refinery Clean Air Act Violations Nets Record Penalty

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BP has agreed to pay a record penalty – $15 million – for pollution violations at its Texas City, Texas refinery. According to a press release from the Department of Justice, the penalty is both the largest ever assessed for civil violations of the federal Clean Air Act’s chemical accident prevention regulations, also known as the risk management program regulations, and the largest civil penalty recovered for Clean Air Act violations at an individual facility.

The settlement addresses violations stemming from two fires that occurred at the BP Texas City refinery in March 2004 and July 2005, and a leak that occurred in August 2005. During the three incidents, each of which resulted in the surrounding Texas City community being ordered to shelter-in-place, thousands of pounds of flammable and toxic air pollutants were released. The settlement also resolves allegations that BP failed to identify all regulated hazardous air pollutants used at the refinery in plans submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The violations covered by the settlement were discovered by the EPA 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.

“The Clean Air Act is intended not only to prevent accidents like the fatal March 2005 accident, but also to penalize companies with poor practices that cause harmful air pollution,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This settlement reflects 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 EPA will aggressively pursue those who fail to comply with the laws that protect human health and the environment.”

The settlement still must be approved by the US District Court in Houston.

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