BP Agrees to Pay $2.75 Million for Air Pollution Violations at Oil Refinery on Lake Michigan

Image: Whihala Beach, Whiting Indiana, by David Wilson, licensed under CC BY 2.0. Source.

Lawsuit Charged that the Century-Old Whiting, Ind., Refinery Repeatedly Violated Legal Limits on Deadly Particulate Air Pollution

Hammond, Ind. – BP has agreed to pay $2.75 million for penalties and environmental projects to resolve a 2019 lawsuit that charged the company’s more than century-old Whiting Refinery on the shore of Lake Michigan just south of Chicago with repeatedly violating legal limits on deadly particulate air pollution.

The Sierra Club, represented by the Environmental Integrity Project, sued BP in 2019 because nine emissions tests on the oil refinery’s smokestacks between August 3, 2015, and October 9, 2018, showed violations of permitted levels of microscopic soot-like particles (called PM10), which can trigger heart and asthma attacks.

“This settlement is a major victory for Hoosiers and everyone in the Chicago metropolitan area, whose health and safety were threatened for far too long by BP’s profits-over-people approach,” said Amanda Shepherd, Director of the Sierra Club Hoosier Chapter. “We are thrilled to see BP held accountable for its dangerous pollution and lack of regard for our communities.”

Eric Schaeffer, Executive Director of the Environmental Integrity Project, said: “The $1.75 million penalty holds BP Whiting accountable for repeatedly violating particulate matter emission limits at its industrial boilers. The environmental projects that BP has agreed to will benefit the local community by expanding tree cover and improving indoor air quality in school classrooms.”

The settlement agreement between BP North America Inc. and Sierra Club was submitted today to the U.S. District Court in Northern Indiana and now must be approved by the judge in the case.  On April 14, 2021, Judge Philip P. Simon ruled that BP had clearly violated the limits for particulate matter emissions from the plant’s boilers and was liable under the federal Clean Air Act for those violations. Shortly after the judge’s ruling, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management issued a modified air pollution control permit for BP Whiting plant.

The BP Whiting refinery, built by Standard Oil in 1889 on the shores of Lake Michigan, is one of the oldest and largest refineries in the U.S. The facility sprawls over 1,400 acres in Whiting, East Chicago, and Hammond. It has a capacity to refine 435,000 barrels of oil per day, making it the sixth largest refinery in the U.S., according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Under the terms of the agreement submitted to the courts today, BP must pay $1.75 million in civil penalties into a special U.S. Treasury fund that gets used for Clean Air Act monitoring and enforcement.

In addition, the company agreed to pay $1 million to third parties to implement supplemental environmental projects, meant to improve local health and quality of life. For example, BP is proposing to give $500,000 to the Student Conservation Association, a non-profit organization that will plant trees around the Whiting Refinery and along nearby roads to Lake Michigan, Wolf Lake, and Lost Marsh Golf Course.

The company would also provide $500,000 to local school districts to purchase, install and replace indoor air filtration devices in classrooms and other areas inside school buildings.  BP also will reimburse the plaintiffs for their legal fees and costs.

In return, the environmental groups will dismiss their complaint against BP and terminate the lawsuit.

For a copy of the agreement submitted to court today, click here.

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3.5 million members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person’s right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.

The Environmental Integrity Project is a 20-year-old nonprofit organization, based in Washington D.C. and Austin, Texas, dedicated to enforcing environmental laws and strengthening policy to protect public health and the environment.

Media contacts:

Gabby Brown, Sierra Club, (914) 261-4626 or gabby.brown@sierraclub.org

Tom Pelton, Environmental Integrity Project, (443) 510-2574 or tpelton@environmentalintegrity.org

Image: Whihala Beach, Whiting Indiana, by David Wilson, licensed under CC BY 2.0. Source.