Oil giant BP agreed to pay US$179 million to settle a US federal lawsuit over pollution at its Texas City plant, the site of a deadly explosion, officials said on Thursday.
BP Products North America Inc agreed to spend more than US$167 million on pollution controls and enhanced monitoring to resolve violations of the Clean Air Act, the Department of Justice said.
The company will also pay a US$12 million civil penalty.
“The Department of Justice and the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] will aggressively pursue those who fail to comply with the laws that protect our environment, and we will hold them accountable,” said John Cruden, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.
“This new agreement requires stringent new measures to protect air quality and public health in Texas beyond those originally required at the Texas City Refinery,” he said.
The EPA discovered the violations during a series of inspections following a March 2005 explosion that killed 15 people and injured 170 others. In October 2007, the company pleaded guilty to a felony violation of the Clean Air Act and agreed to pay a US$50 million fine, the largest criminal fine ever assessed against a corporation for Clean Air Act violations.
That plea is still under review and this settlement does not address any claims arising from the March 2005 explosion, officials said.
The settlement addresses BP’s failure to comply with rules requiring strict controls on benzene — a hazardous air pollutant that causes cancer and nerve damage — generated during petroleum refining.
Pollution control upgrades required under the settlement are expected to reduce the company’s emissions of benzene and other volatile organic compounds by approximately 2,700kg annually.
The settlement will also eliminate the release of approximately 23,100kg of ozone-depleting hydrochlorofluorocarbons from leaking cooling appliances after BP retrofits industrial and commercial cooling appliances. BP will also spend US$6 million to convert approximately 100 diesel municipal vehicles to natural gas in order to reduce air pollution in the area.
“We are pleased to have achieved this settlement and will work to continue reducing emissions and to ensure regulatory compliance at Texas City,” BP said in a statement.