Journalism in the Public Interest

BP’s Toxic Release in Texas City Under Investigation


Texas City welcome sign (Lance Rosenfield for ProPublica)

Earlier this month, we reported that two weeks before BP’s blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, the company’s refinery in Texas City, Texas, released 538,000 pounds of toxic chemicals into the air. The release, as we noted, went on for 40 days as the company tried to repair a key piece of equipment without stopping production.

According to The Daily News of Galveston, Texas, the state attorney general’s office is now investigating the release and looking closely at whether BP satisfied all reporting requirements.

The case is serious enough that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality referred the issue directly to the state attorney general, commission spokeswoman Andrea Morrow told the Daily News. This is not standard practice:

Normally, the environmental agency would file an enforcement citation called an agreed order that would outline the company’s violations, associated fines and orders on what processes or equipment needed corrective action. Only if the company disagreed with the TCEQ findings would the case be sent to the attorney general.

Because of the seriousness of the event and a pending attorney general’s lawsuit against BP for environmental violations, the case instead was filed directly with the attorney general Tuesday, Morrow said.

Last year, the Texas attorney general filed a civil suit against BP for “poor operating and maintenance practices” that resulted in 53 separate incidents of excessive emissions. The Texas City refinery is most infamous for a 2005 explosion that killed 15 people, but as we’ve reported, “four more workers have died in various accidents since then, and two chemical releases in 2007 sent more than 130 people to the hospital.”

Continued violations at the refinery—including failure to repair some of the very problems that led to the 2005 blast—prompted the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to fine BP a record $87 million last year. That fine remains unpaid.

If the Texas attorney general finds grounds for another lawsuit over the 40-day toxic release, the charges would be not be rolled into the current litigation, but would be treated instead as a separate case, the Daily News reported.

BP spokesman Michael Marr wouldn’t comment on the litigation to the Daily News, but said, “We have implemented substantial enhancement in safety and environmental performance and reporting of emissions events at the Texas City refinery.”

leiva rodrigo

July 27, 2010, 8:27 p.m.

It is shocking to know how criminal BP has been as a corporation. It no longer cares whether it is within the US or the Gulf of Mexico.  It is time for people around the world to unite, investigate and file actions against BP and other criminal oil corporations.

In Ecuador Texaco caused such severe contamination that Native Indian peoples continue to die and suffer serious health consequences. The lawsuit filed by Indians of Ecuador for twentyseven billion dollars against Texaco continues in Court, with obvious interferences and denials by this criminal oil corporation.

Do you suppose after all of the fines, litigations, billions set aside and paid out due to the Gulf disaster this company has learned a lesson? Doubt it. I still contend that the U.S. should seize BP’s assets before its to late.

Nancy Cushman

July 29, 2010, 1:29 p.m.

Oh, now I get it…the reason those people in Texas (and the Gulf states for that matter)are so hellbent on drilling their enviornment all to hell is due to the toxic fumes they been sniffin due to the industry in their areas.  When this rig first went was said that the oil companies WANT to create a oil field out of the Gulf of Mexico..and the fools that live around there are gonna help em.  Isn’t that nice?

I am a resident of Texas City, and it’s really scary to think that this is happening.  BP says there were not enough chemical release to hurt us, yet 300 pounds of chemicals per person convinces me otherwise.  This makes me think we are going to have an Erin Brockovich type situation on our hands.  What scares me more is that, I’m not just watching a movie anymore… I’m possible in it.

Travis Packard

July 30, 2010, 6:05 p.m.

when is the gov. goning to start doing something about bp when everybody has cancer

Cherelyn Nelson

July 30, 2010, 8:54 p.m.

I have been a Texas City resident for over 50 years and never have I ever seen it as I have in my entire life. Cancer is more prevalent in everyones family living here in Texas City…... Can you tell me why?????? We as Texas City citizens must pay $39 for emission test just to drive our vehicles on public streets. Do you think BP is going to pay anything for releasing 500,000 pounds of chemicals into our air which Im sure, will be the death of us all…...... Just keep living friends….

Body Repair Restoration Chemicals

Aug. 2, 2010, 8:56 p.m.

The volume of release s appearing on the Response Source ... Body Repair Restoration Chemicals

I am happy that I happenned on this particular site. I have been sick since April, when the release occurred. I live about 45 min from Galveston in the Houston area. After seeing my Primary care physician 3 times, trying various antibiotics for a suppossed bacterial infection…my Dr has admitted to me that what I am sufferring is a result of the chemical poisioning and that there is nothing he can do for me. There is no cure for this! I will be contacting an atty, I missed the mtg on the Class Action suit this past wk. I have been in bed with lots of symptoms, all listed from benzene poisoning. Everyone please keep me in their prayers.

Beatriz Mercado

Aug. 16, 2010, 9:08 a.m.

Ms. Mary Anne, we will keep you in our prayers!  I myself have been affected as my first born son was working at BP for 40 days when all of this was happening. None of the workers were aware of what was happening to them.  They were not told or warned.  At this point I just pray that all people affected be ok!!  God Bless us all and give us the strength to get thru this terrible situation.

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The BP oil disaster in the Gulf has had untold health, economic and environmental effects.

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