BP to pay Texas $50 million for illegal emissions

Jessica M. Karmasek Nov. 3, 2011, 12:21pm


AUSTIN, Texas (Legal Newsline) - Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said Thursday that BP Products North America Inc. has agreed to pay the State $50 million for illegal emissions following an explosion and fire at its Texas City refinery.

In June 2009, the Attorney General's Office charged BP with violating state environmental protection laws when a deadly explosion erupted at the refinery in March 2005.

"The proposed agreement resolves the State's enforcement actions against BP Products for unlawful pollutant emissions at its Texas City refinery," Abbott said in a statement.

"The Texas Attorney General's Office is committed to protecting our State's precious natural resources by enforcing environmental pollution laws. The proposed agreement reflects the State's commitment to protecting air quality and holding polluters accountable for illegal emissions."

According to Abbott's lawsuit, BP was responsible for 72 separate and unlawful pollutant emissions occurring every few months since the explosion and fire.

The accident claimed 15 lives and injured more than 170 workers.

Following the attorney general's 2009 filing, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality -- the agency that regulates and permits emissions at state refineries -- 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, 2010 and May 16, 2010.

As a result of the commission's findings, Abbott's office filed a second enforcement action and charged BP with illegally emitting about 500,000 pounds of harmful air pollutants in Texas City.

According to the proposed agreement, filed in Travis County District Court Thursday, BP does not admit any liability and entered into agreement due to the "uncertainty and costs of litigation."

Of the $50 million, $500,000 will cover costs that Abbott's office incurred while pursuing the case.

The remainder reflects civil penalties that will be deposited directly into the State Treasury.

Under the 11-page proposed agreement, BP has 30 days from the effective date of the judgment -- meaning the date the court signs off on the settlement -- to pay the entire amount to the State.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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