BP, a multinational oil and gas giant, is poised to pay a record-breaking $40 million penalty for its Indiana refinery’s breach of federal law through the emission of pollutants into the air and wastewater near East Chicago, Whiting. The penalty is levied against BP’s subsidiary, BP Products North America Inc., to settle a civil case initiated by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This fine is described as the highest ever under the Clean Air Act for pollution from a structure. The company will also invest around $197 million in further enhancements.
Environmental advocates welcomed the crackdown on the refinery, noting that it would aid in diminishing harmful pollution.
The Whiting refinery, with a 134-year-long history, is the largest in the U.S. Midwest and the sixth-largest in the nation. It processes roughly 440,000 barrels of crude oil daily, producing a range of liquid fuels and asphalt.
Violations Uncovered through Environmental Management
The settlement is a result of an inspection conducted in October 2019 by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, during which multiple violations were noticed.
A new federal complaint alleges that the BP unit contravened regulations limiting the amount of benzene in refinery wastewater streams and the emission of hazardous and volatile air contaminants.
The EPA has warned that long-term inhalation of benzene can cause cancer, blood disorders, and reproductive issues for women. Volatile organic compounds contribute to the formation of ozone, a key component of smog, which is associated with various lung diseases.
Settlement Penalties and Mandated Changes
BP is required to pay a $40 million penalty, marking the largest civil penalty ever for a Clean Air Act settlement related to a stationary facility. Around $9 million will be allocated to the state, with the remainder directed to the U.S. Treasury.
Additionally, the company has pledged a $5 million project to lower diesel emissions in nearby communities, along with intensifying pollution monitoring efforts. This includes the installation of one monitoring device within the refinery grounds, three on the perimeter, and ten beyond it.
Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim, of the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, voiced his support for these control measures, stating they would ‘significantly enhance air quality and alleviate health impacts on the overburdened communities surrounding the facility.’
The federal settlement with Indiana is subject to court approval following a public commentary period.
The Environmental Integrity Project, an advocacy group that had previously sued BP over emissions from the Whiting refinery, lauded the latest settlement “for holding BP accountable for its illegal emissions and for imposing stringent new cleanup standards