BP agrees to cut air pollution at refinery, pay $8-million fine

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration announced that BP North America Inc. has agreed to pay an $8-million fine and install more than $400 million in equipment to cut air pollution from an oil refinery in Whiting, Ind., as part of a settlement over alleged violations of the Clean Air Act.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Justice Department said in a statement that the pollution reduction plan, when fully implemented, “is expected to reduce harmful air pollution that can cause respiratory problems such as asthma and are significant contributors to acid rain, smog and haze, by more than 4,000 tons per year.”

The government alleged in its complaint that BP North America violated the Clean Air Act in connection with the expansion of the Whiting refinery in northwestern Indiana near Chicago and that it had also defied a 2001 consent decree that covered all its US refineries.

“We are pleased to have reached an agreement that protects jobs, consumers and the environment,” said Steve Cornell, President of BP Products North America. “This multibillion-dollar modernization project is the largest private-sector investment in Indiana history.”

BP said the equipment would be installed in 2013.

A coalition of environmentalists that has long challenged air pollution permits to the Whiting facility welcomed the announcement.

Under the settlement, the refinery would have to install pollution control equipment on its flaring devices, which are used to burn off waste gases. Environmentalists said the settlement, along with a previous one at another refinery, shows that flaring is a significant source of air pollution at refineries.

The damage from flaring had long been underestimated because of outdated methodology, the groups said. But new calculations shows that pollution from flaring is 7.5 to 15 times higher than regulators once thought.



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