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BP to pay £9.5m over refinery fires

Oil giant BP has agreed to pay a 15 million US dollars (£9.5 million) penalty for fires and toxic leaks at its Texas City refinery, the US Department of Justice has said.

The penalty is the largest ever issued for civil violations of the US Clean Air Act by a single facility, and brings total fines for the refinery to nearly 137 million US dollars (£86.9 million).

The settlement, which is subject to court approval, relates to two fires that occurred at the refinery in March 2004 and July 2005, and a leak that occurred in August 2005.

Thousands of pounds of flammable and toxic pollutants were released during the three incidents, forcing the surrounding community to take shelter.

The settlement also resolves allegations that BP failed to identify all hazardous air pollutants used at the refinery, the DoJ said.

Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), said: "BP's actions at the Texas City refinery have terrible consequences for the people who work there and for those in nearby communities.

"Today's settlement, in conjunction with other actions already taken by EPA and other federal agencies at Texas City, demonstrates the agency's continuing commitment to actively and vigorously work to hold BP accountable and to make them comply with our nation's environmental protection laws wherever the company operates."

The EPA identified the violations during a series of inspections of the Texas City refinery following a catastrophic explosion in March 2005 that killed 15 people and injured more than 170 others.

The events at BP's Texas City refinery covered by the settlement included a gas leak in August 2005, a fire in July 2005 caused by an incorrectly-installed pipe, and another fire in March 2004, caused by a corroded pipe.

BP's Texas City refinery is the third largest in the United States, with a production capacity of more than 460,000 barrels of oil per day. The proposed settlement has been lodged in the US District Court for the Southern District of Texas.

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