BP unit to pay $15 million for pollution violations

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A unit of BP Plc has agreed to pay $15 million to settle Clean Air Act violations related to fires and a leak at its Texas City refinery in 2004 and 2005, the Obama administration said on Thursday.

The penalty addresses violations from two fires at the Texas refinery in March 2004 and July 2005 as well as a leak in August 2005, the U.S. Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency said in a statement.

As a result of the fires and leak at the BP Products North America refinery, thousands of pounds of flammable and toxic air pollutants were released, forcing residents to take shelter, the agencies said.

BP said in a statement that there were no injuries or impact on health outside of the refinery from the incidents.

“BP Products has incorporated lessons from these events into its current work processes and training,” the company said. “BP Products will expand its reporting to the EPA regarding equipment inspection, personnel training and incident investigations.”

The fires and leak were separate from the March 2005 accident at the Texas City refinery in which 15 workers were killed and 180 others were injured. BP was put on probation in 2009 as a result of that incident.

“BP’s actions at the Texas City refinery have had terrible consequences for the people who work there and for those in nearby communities,” Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, said in a statement.

The EPA discovered the violations after a series of inspections at the refinery following the catastrophic blast.

The settlement is subject to court approval and was filed in federal court in Texas.

BP has been under intense scrutiny not just for the Texas City refinery incidents, but also the massive oil spill from one of its wells in the Gulf of Mexico in which more than 4 million barrels of oil is believed to have spilled.

The case is USA v BP Products North America Inc, case No. 10-cv-03569 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.

Reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky and Erwin Seba in Houston, editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Matthew Lewis