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Energy

Mother claims child died due BP refinery pollution

* Texas lawsuit seeks $10 billion in punitive damages

* BP declines to discuss lawsuit

HOUSTON, Aug 19 (Reuters) - A woman sued BP Plc's BP.LBP.N North American subsidiary on Thursday, claiming excess pollution from the company's refinery in Texas City, Texas, contributed to her infant child's death.

The lawsuit, which seeks $10 billion in punitive damages, is one of thousands being filed in Texas over excess pollution from the giant Texas City refinery, which this month agreed to pay a $50.6 million fine to the U.S. government for safety lapses related to a 2005 explosion that killed 15 workers.

A BP spokesman declined to discuss the lawsuit.

“We are deeply saddened to hear of the death of a child in our community,” BP spokesman Michael Marr said. “Given the circumstances, we will not have further comment on this lawsuit.”

BP also faces a probe by the Texas attorney general and a $10 billion federal class-action lawsuit over the April-May release of 500,000 pounds of excess pollution, including about 17,000 pounds of benzene, which the company reported to state pollution regulators as due to a malfunction.

BP has said air monitors around the refinery’s perimeter did not detect excess levels of pollution during the time a malfunctioning hydrocracker triggered the release.

Houston attorney Anthony Buzbee, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the child’s mother, said doctors were unable to determine what caused the pneumonia diagnosed in 6-month-old Julius Provost.

“It’s almost like the baby drowned to death in its own fluids,” Buzbee said. “BP will continue to downplay this and say their monitors failed to pick this up.”

Provost died on June 23 and the medical examiner ruled the cause of his death to be undetermined, but noted the child had fluid in his lungs, (Editing by Walter Bagley)

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