EPA, Justice Department Make Record Settlement with BP over Hazardous Emissions

by | May 18, 2023


(Credit: BP)

The EPA and Department of Justice have reached a milestone settlement with BP Products North America. The resolution includes the largest civil penalty in a stationary source settlement since the Clean Air Act was passed in 1970.

The settlement requires the company to secure capital investments of around $197 million and to pay a record-setting fine of $40 million. It must also implement technology that will reduce benzene, other hazardous air pollutants (HAP), and volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions at its Whiting refinery in Indiana. BP has separately agreed to pay $5 million toward reducing diesel emissions in communities surrounding the Whiting Refinery by shifting to cleaner fuel vehicles.

The U.S. complaint alleges that BPP violated federal regulations which limit benzene in wastewater streams, HAP, and VOC emissions, overall failing to use good pollution control practices.

Long-term exposure to benzene is known to cause cancer and blood disorders, and it has adverse reproductive effects on women, while VOCs are a primary actor in the creation of smog. Those who inhale smog, especially those with lung disease, children, the elderly, and people who are active, are at risk of lung irritation, difficulty breathing, or even permanent lung damage from repeated exposure.

Communities surrounding the Whiting Refinery, the largest BP refinery in the Midwest, have well-grounded environmental justice concerns. This decision reflects the EPA and Justice Department’s focus on helping communities that have been historically marginalized and disproportionately affected by pollution.

“This settlement will result in the reduction of hundreds of tons of harmful air pollution a year, which means cleaner, healthier air for local communities, including communities with environmental justice concerns,” said Acting Assistant Administrator Larry Starfield of the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “This is one of several recent settlements that show that EPA and the Department of Justice are committed to improving air quality in local communities by holding industrial sources accountable for violations of emission standards under the Clean Air Act.”

BPP to Monitor Future Emissions and Strip Benzene from Whiting Refinery Wastewater

As a part of the settlement, BP will install permanent benzene strippers in order to remove benzene from its wastewater treatment plant. The company will also install air pollutant monitoring stations in order to monitor air quality outside of the refinery fenceline and to mitigate further air emissions.

The settlement and ensuing actions by BP reveal the EPA and Justice Department’s commitment to holding the refining industry accountable for violating the Clean Air Act. The oversight continues to ensure that corporations are doing all they can to track and lower harmful emissions. BP’s changes are expected to reduce 372 tons of VOC emissions, 28 tons of hazardous air pollutants, and 7 tons of benzene emissions per year.

“This settlement sends an important message to the refining industry that the United States will take decisive action against illegal benzene and VOC emissions,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Under the settlement, the refinery will implement controls that will greatly improve air quality and reduce health impacts on the overburdened communities that surround the facility.”

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