BP Agrees To Spend $400 Million To Reduce Pollution At Whiting Refinery

By Chuck Sudo in News on May 23, 2012 8:30PM

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Photo Credit: Samuel A. Love
2012 is turning into a banner year for environmentalists. First the Fisk and Crawford coal-fired electric plants announced they'll both close in September. Today comes news that BP agreed to spend $400 million to reduce air pollution levels at its ginormous refinery in Whiting, Ind. All we can say is it took them long enough.

The refinery, visible from Lake Michigan on a clear day, processes heavy crude from tar-soaked sands shipped there from Northern Canada. It's been a major source of pollution and attracted the scrutiny of the EPA and and endless complaints from area residents for years. The EPA cited the refinery for violating federal air standards by releasing the cancer-causing toxin benzene into the air from 2003 to 2008, sometimes at 16 times the acceptable limit. Residents who live close enough to the refinery to smell its emissions were rightly concerned about a leak of the flammable refining gas naptha. BP had been trying to have pollution levels increased for years as part of a planned expansion of the refinery, while noises from the plant have probably contributed to restless nights of sleep for Whiting residents.

A consent decree filed in U.S. District Court in Hammond requires BP to do the following:

  • Install equipment on both its new and existing flares which will recover and reuse waste gases, cutting flaring emissions up to 90 percent.
  • Control emissions from the refinery “coking” process that is being re-tooled to handle the heavy Canadian crude.
  • Spend $9.5 million on projects to reduce carbon pollution emissions, which were expected to increase significantly as a result of the tar sands project.
  • Establish a $500,000 fund which will be available to local public agencies to reduce local diesel emissions through a diesel retrofit program.

Susan Hedman, the U.S. EPA’s top official in the Midwest, said of the settlement.

“This ground-breaking settlement will resolve a number of problems at the Whiting refinery that have negatively impacted the health of people in the surrounding area. It also sets a new standard for refineries throughout the country.”

BP Products of America president Steve Cornell said in a statement, “We are pleased to have reached an agreement that protects jobs, consumers and the environment."

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