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Jan. 20, 2005

The South Coast Air Quality Management District filed an $183,114,000 lawsuit against BP West Coast Products today for thousands of air quality violations at the company’s Carson refinery.

Today’s lawsuit is the sequel to a civil action filed by AQMD against BP in 2003 seeking $413,985,000 for thousands of similar air quality violations.  That lawsuit, representing the largest penalty ever sought by AQMD, is still ongoing.  Combined, the two lawsuits seek more than $597 million.

“Emissions from the Carson refinery have significantly impacted its neighbors, including school children, and posed a very serious air pollution problem,” said Barry Wallerstein, AQMD’s executive officer.

The new civil suit, filed in the Central District of Los Angeles County Superior Court, alleges that BP illegally released air pollutants by failing to adequately inspect, maintain, repair and properly operate thousands of pieces of equipment across the refinery as required by AQMD regulations.  In some cases, the violations were due to negligence, while in others the violations were knowingly and willfully committed by refinery officials, the lawsuit alleges.

Although the suit seeks a minimum civil penalty of $183 million, BP’s potential liability could be even more substantial.

The suit is based on violations issued by AQMD to BP between August 2002 and early October 2004.  The complaint cites violations associated with the refinery’s storage tanks, valves, wastewater and “sour water” systems, flares and other equipment dating as far back as 1991, including:

  • Failure to properly maintain more than three dozen petroleum storage tanks and floating roofs on tanks, allowing excess emissions of smog-forming volatile organic compounds (VOC);
  • Failure to account for and properly inspect approximately 140,000 refinery components, resulting in excess VOC emissions;
  • Failure to adequately maintain an industrial wastewater system, resulting in excess emissions;
  • Failure to properly operate the refinery’s “sour water” and vapor recovery systems, resulting in more than 125 illegal releases of odors and particulates; and
  • Numerous violations associated with the refinery’s flares, including tampering with flare monitoring equipment, dramatically reducing the number of air pollution samples taken from flares; and making false statements to AQMD regarding flares.

“We hope this lawsuit will send a strong message to the company and other polluters in the Southland, that endangering public health from illegal air pollution violations will not be tolerated.”

AQMD is the air pollution control agency for Orange County and major portions of Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties.