WASHINGTON, DC, May 24, 2012 (ENS) – BP North America Inc. has agreed to pay an $8 million penalty and invest more than $400 million to install state-of-the-art pollution controls and cut emissions from the company’s petroleum refinery in Whiting, Indiana.

When fully implemented, the agreement is expected to reduce air pollution by more than 4,000 tons per year. The pollutants can cause respiratory problems such as asthma and are significant contributors to acid rain, smog and haze.

Construction at BP’s Whiting Refinery, December 2011 (Photo courtesy BP North America)

The complaint filed by the U.S. government alleges violations of Clean Air Act requirements at the Whiting refinery in connection with construction and expansion of the refinery. BP is investing several billion dollars to modernize the refinery to process additional quantities of Canadian extra heavy crude oil extracted from the Canadian tar sands.

In addition, the government alleges violations of a 2001 consent decree with the company that covered all of BP’s refineries and was entered into as part of EPA’s Petroleum Refinery Initiative.

“In this case, BP North America has not lived up to all of its obligations under an earlier settlement agreement and has committed new violations of the Clean Air Act at its Whiting Refinery in Indiana,” said Ignacia Moreno, assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice.

“This settlement secures a significant penalty, requires state-of-the-art controls, and is a fair and just resolution that will address BP’s violations. We will continue to hold BP accountable and ensure that it complies with the nation’s environmental laws,” she said.

The BP Whiting Refinery is located on the southwestern shore of Lake Michigan and the Indiana Harbor Ship Canal in the communities of Whiting, East Chicago and Hammond, Indiana. Whiting is the second largest refinery in the BP refining system, and the sixth largest in the United States.

The consent decree that settles the allegations was signed by state and federal agencies, BP and a consortium of environmental and community groups who have long asserted that BP’s air permits did not accurately reflect the pollution realities of the Whiting refinery’s expansion.

The settlement will lead to the installation of innovative pollution controls on the largest sources of emissions at the refinery, including new controls on flaring devices.

Modern equipment will remove more sulfur and nitrogen from gas oil. (Photo courtesy BP North America)

Flaring devices are used to burn-off waste gases. The more waste gases sent to a flare, and the less efficient the flare is when burning those gases, the more pollution that will occur.

Under the settlement, BP will install new equipment that will limit the amount of waste gas sent to flaring devices in the first place, as well as implement innovative, cutting-edge controls to ensure proper combustion efficiency for any gases that are burned in a flaring device.

“Today’s settlement will protect the residents of northwestern Indiana from harmful air pollution by requiring state-of-the-art pollution controls,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.

The settlement also requires BP to spend $9.5 million on projects at the Whiting Refinery to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases.

BP will perform a supplemental environmental project in which the company will install, operate and maintain a $2 million fence line emission monitoring system at the refinery and will make the data collected available to the public by posting the information on a publicly-accessible website.

Fenceline monitors will continuously monitor benzene, toluene, pentane, hexane, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide and all compounds containing reduced sulfur.

“BP’s agreement to install fenceline monitoring will ensure that residents have access to critical information about pollution that may be affecting their community,” Giles said.

The settlement also will result in reduced emissions by imposing some of the lowest emission limits in refinery settlements to date, enhancing controls on wastewater containing benzene and providing for an enhanced leak detection and repair program.

The state of Indiana, the Sierra Club, Save the Dunes, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Hoosier Environmental Council, the Environmental Law and Policy Center, the Environmental Integrity Project, Susan Eleuterio and Tom Tsourlis also joined in this settlement.

The Sierra Club said, “The controversy over air pollution permits awarded by the State of Indiana to expand BP’s refinery in Whiting has come to an end with a precedent-setting settlement that will cut emissions from the highly-polluting tar sands oil project and provide stronger air quality protections for Northwest Indiana and Chicago residents.”

The consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.

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