BP Defending Itself On Yet Another Pollution Front

During this economic recovery, we bet one place is hiring: the BP legal department.

Not only is the company struggling to defend a crush of lawsuits connected to the oil spill in the Gulf, but now it has to deal with a $10 billion lawsuit for allegedly making thousands of people ill by releasing enormous amounts of carcinogens into the air from its notorious Texas City refinery.

It's no secret that benzene emissions go fairly unchecked in Texas. And this time, thousands of residents are taking the fight against potentially deadly pollution into their own hands.

According to the lawsuit, which was filed Tuesday in Galveston federal court, the 10 named plaintiffs (and more than 2,200 others) are attempting "to do, through this case, what none of the authorities thus far has been able to do -- put an end to BP's continuous pollution of the air, ground, and water, and the continued exposure to harmful substances of workers at the BP Texas City Refinery."

In 2005, an explosion at the Texas City refinery killed 15 workers and injured more than 1,000. BP eventually was fined more than $70 million. In 2009, OSHA fined BP more than $87 million.

This latest lawsuit is focused around the 538,000 pounds of chemicals the refinery released into the air between April 6 and May 16. The emissions allegedly included 17,000 pounds of the carcinogen benzene.

Attorney Anthony Buzbee, a long-time nemesis of BP who famously won a $100 million award against the British oil giant in a jury trial, claims that the health of tens of thousands of BP workers and Texas City residents has been jeopardized and compromised after being exposed to such high levels of benzene.

"Despite the efforts of the EPA, OSHA, TCEQ and other federal and state agencies, including even the United States Justice Department," the lawsuit states, "and despite the massive fines that these agencies have assessed, BP simply has not changed, and continues to pollute the ground, water, and air, and continues to put both the workers, and nearby residents at risk. One can only fathom the death and sorry that will result when these toxic chemicals wreak their ultimate havoc on those exposed in the future."

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