With the world focused on a BP rig explosion in the spring of 2010 that caused the worst oil spill in U.S. history, a massive release of pollutants from the company’s Texas City refinery went largely unnoticed.
The April 20, 2010, explosion of the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico came two weeks after the BP refinery began releasing pollutants into the air through a 300-foot flare that is designed to burn them away. BP reported at least 538,000 pounds of gases, including 17,371 pounds of cancer-causing benzene, spewed from the flare over 40 days.
It was the third-largest release of benzene in Texas from 2009-11, according to a report released last week by the advocacy group Environmental Integrity Project.
“Even if you accept on the surface what BP claims what the release was, it was a major release,” said Matthew Tejada, executive director of the environmental group Air Alliance Houston.
More than two years later, internal BP emails and statements in depositions for a $500 billion lawsuit indicate BP ignored repeated requests for money to fix a compressor that failed, causing the chemical release.