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Texas residents take BP to trial over toxic gas purge

Posted on by SST

British Petroleum will need to respond to the claims of a number of Texans who are seeking reparations referring to a period of time in 2010 that toxic gases were knowingly released from an oil refinery. 

Bloomberg Law reported that first trial of the 48,000 toxic exposure claims started Sept. 9 in Galveston, Texas. The six plaintiffs in the case are seeking $10 billion in punitive damages that will be donated to charity, with each individual seeking as much as $200,000 in actual damages.

Tony Buzbee, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said BP knowingly vented 500,000 pounds of toxic, cancer-causing agents from a Texas oil refinery. The refinery itself was in need of repair, however, Buzbee claims that BP would've lost $20 million if the refinery was shutdown for those repairs to take place. Instead, BP allegedly directed the toxic gases through a flare that was not capable of destroying the substances. Buzbee hopes the jurors will side with the plaintiffs, and send oil and gas companies the message that the careless poisoning of an entire community is not an acceptable business practice. 

"Neither the community air-monitoring network nor the BP fence-line monitors showed elevated readings during April and May 2010," Scott Dean, a BP spokesman, said by e-mail before the trial. "We do not believe that any negative health impacts resulted from flaring at BP's Texas City refinery during this period."

Finding a settlement
Unlike the BP Deepwater​ Horizon incident, the Texas refinery is not isolated from human populations out in the ocean. Still, thet 2010 oil spill lead to BP paying more than $30 billion in spill cleanup costs, damages and fines. Over a 40-day period, the Texas City Refinery vented known carcinogens and underreported the volume of toxins. Buzbee said the event is clearly documented and acknowledged by BP. 

Yet, Katherine Mackillop, a lawyer representing BP, said the toxin concentrations never exceeded government standards, and that the claims of residents – such as headaches, coughing and irritated eyes – are common and experienced by the general public every day, Bloomberg reported.

While BP disputes that enough chemicals were released to cause any harm, BP had agreed to pay $50 million in 2011 to settle air-pollution violations from 2005 to 2011, including the 2010 incident in question. However, it is unclear how, or if, BP uses toxic gas detector equipment at its refinery sites. The Texas refinery facility has since been sold to Marathon Petroleum.

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