Over the course of 40 days in 2010, BP allowed hundreds of thousands of pounds of chemicals to escape from its refinery in Texas City, Texas. Unfortunate neighbors inhaled a carcinogenic cocktail of benzene, nitrogen oxides, and carbon monoxide.
Now, more than three years after the incident and a year after BP sold the refinery to another company, the first four of an estimated 48,000 claimants are having their day in court.
In a trial that began Monday, the neighbors are seeking up to $200,000 apiece in compensation — plus $10 billion in punitive damages, which they have pledged in court documents to donate to charity. From Bloomberg:
BP knowingly vented at least 500,000 pounds of toxic chemicals, including benzene, from a faulty refinery unit to a flare the company knew was incapable of destroying the toxins, Tony Buzbee, the residents’ lead attorney, said in a phone interview. He claims BP would have lost more than $20 million if it had shut the unit down during repairs.