In an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, oil giant BP has agreed to pay $275,000 in civil penalties to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Water and Air acts relating to a March 2014 spill of crude oil into Lake Michigan from its Whiting, Indiana refinery.
Announced Monday by the U.S. EPA, BP has agreed to take steps to reduce an estimated 23,500 pounds of pollution annually from the nation’s sixth largest refinery located off of Lake Michigan and just a few miles from Chicago’s southern border.
“Ensuring BP’s compliance with the Clean Water Act is critical to protect Lake Michigan,” stated acting Regional Administrator Robert Kaplan in a statement. “Identifying hazards and maintaining a safe facility will prevent accidental releases from occurring.”
The Whiting refinery is capable of processing up to 430,000 barrels of oil per day.
In March 2014, 39 barrels of crude oil, or more than 1,600 gallons of oil, spilled into Lake Michigan, causing an outcry from Chicago politicians and environmentalists. The U.S. Coast Guard and the EPA responded to the spill which took weeks to fully clean up.
The Coast Guard assessed a $2,000 penalty against BP, a company that saw $225 billion in profits in 2015.
Following the spill, the U.S. EPA conducted an investigation at the refinery. It found that the company, which had completed a $4 billion modernization program at the Whiting Refinery in 2013, the largest private investment in Indiana history, failed to implement its spill prevention, control and countermeasure plan.
In its report, the EPA also found that “BP failed to provide appropriate containment to prevent a discharge of oil.”
As part of the agreement, BP will update its plan and pay a $151,899 civil penalty to resolve the alleged violations.
But the EPA also found that BP exceeded the limits of its wastewater discharge permit in April and November of 2011.
As a result, “BP has agreed to install new monitoring equipment, implement an inspection and cleaning schedule for a wastewater treatment device, and enhance storm-water controls and inspections to prevent unauthorized discharges. BP has also agreed to pay a $74,212 civil penalty to resolve these alleged violations,” according to the EPA.
BP also agreed to implement “enhanced procedures” when installing equipment at the refinery and pay a $50,313 civil penalty to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Air Act’s chemical accident prevention requirements.
BP issued the following statement: “BP is pleased to resolve the U.S. EPA’s claims under the Clean Air Act related to the March 2014 discharge at the Whiting refinery. We remain committed to safe, reliable and compliant operations,” stated Michael Abendhoff, Director of Media Affairs, at its Chicago office.
Ann Alexander, senior attorney in the Midwest Program of the Natural Resources Defense Council, says BP Whiting facility has had a number of environmental issues.
“From petcoke, to their Lake Michigan oil spill and all the daily air and water pollution in between, this is the latest in a parade of mishaps and violations that have marked BP Whiting’s operations,” Alexander told WBEZ in a statement. “That refinery stands as a clear poster child on the need for tight pollution standards on fossil fuels and the need to move away from those fuels as quickly as we can.”
The agreement and penalties are subject to a 40-day public comment period. To comment on alleged violations of the spill prevention program, go here.
To comment on the alleged violations of the national pollutant discharge system, go here.