Whiting, Ind. – A big penalty for a major player in the multinational oil and gas industry. A subsidiary of BP is set to pay a record-setting $40 million for charges that its Indiana refinery in Whiting near East Chicago violated federal law by releasing pollutants into the air and wastewater.
The actions will settle a civil case against BP Products North America Inc. filed by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency which described the penalty as the largest ever under the Clean Air Act for pollution from a structure. Additionally the company will invest around $197 million in improvements.
Environmental advocates expressed how the crackdown at the refinery would help reduce harmful pollution.
The 134-year-old refinery is the largest in the U.S. Midwest and sixth largest nationally. It processes about 440,000 barrels of crude oil daily making a variety of liquid fuels and asphalt.
Violations discovered from environmental management
The settlement comes after a visit to the site in October 2019 where inspectors observed multiple violations according to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.
A new federal complaint accused the BP unit of breaking rules limiting benzene in refinery wastewater streams and emissions of hazardous and volatile air contaminants.
In addition to causing cancer, long-term inhalation of benzene is linked to blood disorders and reproductive problems for women, the EPA said. Volatile organic compounds help create smog-produced ozone, implicated in various lung ailments.
Penalties and changes to be made from the settlement
BP will have to pay a penalty of $40 million which is the largest civil penalty secured for a Clean Air Act settlement for a fixed location. Roughly $9 million will go to the state, with the remainder going to the U.S. Treasury.
The company also promised a $5 million project to reduce diesel emissions in nearby communities along with stepping up pollution surveillance. That includes placing a monitoring device on the refinery grounds, three at the fence line and 10 beyond there.
The control measures ‘will greatly improve air quality and reduce health impacts on the overburdened communities that surround the facility,’Todd Kim, assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice Environment and Natural Resources Division
The Environmental Integrity Project, an advocacy group that previously sued BP over Whiting refinery emissions, praised the latest settlement “for holding BP accountable for its illegal emissions and for the tough new cleanup standards” it imposes.