Posted on 10 Aug 2010
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has charged BP Products North America Inc. with illegally emitting approximately 500,000 pounds of harmful air pollutants from its Texas City refinery for more than a month earlier this year.
The State’s enforcement action, which alleges that BP allowed harmful contaminants such as benzene, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides to be emitted, stems from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). According to court documents filed by the State, TCEQ recorded multiple violations of the Texas Clean Air Act at the Texas City refinery between April 6 and May 16.
Today’s legal action is the second against BP since June 2009, when the Attorney General filed a legal action alleging that the facility’s poor operational practices led to harmful releases following a 2005 explosion that killed 15 workers and injured 170.
Of the 72 violations cited in the State’s ongoing 2009 case, seven involve the same operating compressor unit that was responsible for the emissions in today’s enforcement action. When the unit malfunctioned and caught fire on April 6, BP workers shut it down and routed escaping gases to flares. Rather than shut down associated units while compressor repairs were made, BP chose to keep operating those other units, which led to unlawful release of contaminants to the air for almost 40 days. BP self-reported the incident to the TCEQ.
The State’s investigation shows that BP’s failure to properly maintain its equipment caused the malfunction and could have been prevented. BP’s own self-reporting data indicate that seal filters protecting the compressor failed because of an iron sulfide buildup, likely because BP failed to properly maintain these devices.
The Attorney General is seeking civil penalties of no less than $50 nor greater than $25,000 per day of each violation of state air quality laws, as well as attorneys’ fees and investigative costs.