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BP Accused of Air Pollution at Texas City Refinery

Aug. 9 (Bloomberg) -- A BP Plc unit allowed the emission of about 500,000 pounds of air pollutants in violation of Texas environmental laws, state Attorney General Greg Abbott alleged in a lawsuit.

BP “admitted to the release of air contaminants to the atmosphere” at its Texas City refinery after an April 6 fire on part of a ultracracking unit, according to the complaint filed today in Austin, Texas. BP restarted the ultracracker and another unit before repairing a compressor, sending benzene and other pollutants into the air for about a month, the state said.

“BP decided to continue those units so as not to reduce productivity,” the state said in the complaint. “BP made very little attempt to minimize the emission of air contaminants caused by its actions, once again prioritizing profits over environmental compliance.”

The state also has a pending action over a release of contaminants related to a 2005 explosion at the Texas City refinery, Abbott said in a statement today. That blast killed 15 workers and led to a $50 million fine by the U.S. for a violation of the federal Clean Water Act.

BP “will continue to cooperate with the attorney general’s office” and the Texas environmental quality agency “to resolve their concerns,” Scott Dean, a BP spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement. The company declined further comment on the litigation, he said.

Injuries

Lawyers for workers at the Texas City refinery and nearby residents filed a class action last week alleging they were injured by emissions from April 6 to May 16.

The lawsuits are unrelated to the sinking of a rig at a BP well in the Gulf of Mexico that led to the largest oil spill in U.S. history. BP is facing more than 300 lawsuits over the leak, including class actions, claiming personal injury, environmental damage and economic loss.

The Texas lawsuit is State of Texas v. BP Products North America Inc., District Court, Travis County, Texas. The class action is Fontenot v. BP Products North America Inc., 3:10-cv-295, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas (Galveston).

To contact the reporter on this story: Margaret Cronin Fisk in Southfield, Michigan, at mcfisk@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: David E. Rovella at drovella@bloomberg.net

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