Trial begins against BP over Texas refinery emissions

Wed Sep 11, 2013 5:02pm EDT
 
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By Erwin Seba

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Trial began on Wednesday in the first four of 48,000 civil lawsuits filed against BP Plc for pollution from the 460,196 barrel per day (bpd) refinery it owned in Texas City, Texas until early this year, according to court documents.

The four suits allege that people were harmed when the refinery released vapors into the atmosphere from its hydrocracking unit during a 40-day period in 2010. The city had a population of 45,099 in 2010, according to the U.S. Census.

Since the first lawsuits were filed in 2010, the British oil company has denied the claims that people were harmed by the emissions, which included 17,000 pounds of benzene, according to notices filed by the refinery with Texas pollution regulators.

BP said in a statement on Wednesday that: "Neither the community air-monitoring network nor the BP fence-line monitors showed elevated readings during April and May 2010 and we do not believe that any negative health impacts resulted from flaring at BP's Texas City refinery during this period."

The four plaintiffs whose cases began on Wednesday are seeking compensation of $200,000 each from BP. All 48,000 plaintiffs in the refinery lawsuits also are seeking a single punitive claim of $10 billion that would be donated to charity.

In 2011, BP paid $50 million to settle a lawsuit by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott over pollution from the refinery between 2005 and 2011.

BP ALSO FACES SUITS OVER OIL SPILL

BP may find itself mounting defenses to court cases involving the refinery in Texas at the same time that it defends itself from suits in Louisiana stemming from the biggest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.   Continued...

 
A BP logo is seen at a petrol station in London May 15, 2013. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth