BP hit with $10 billion lawsuit

August 3, 2010 8:28:41 PM PDT
While the oil spill has been stopped, the lawsuits against BP are still coming. This week, two lawsuits have been filed against the oil giant, focusing on health and safety violations at its refinery in Texas City. The lawsuits focus on an extended chemical release at the Texas City plant that happened this past spring just before the oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. The Texas Attorney General's Office is investigating reports of benzene resonant, which can cause cancer.

Sheryl Shurley lives within eyesight of BP's Texas City refinery. She clearly remembers the day the plant exploded in March 2005 killing 15 people.

"It shook the pictures and the lamps off, you know, where they're at," Shurley said.

But she doesn't remember the latest problem here because there was no loud boom; this one was silent.

"You never know what you're breathing in," she said.

As the Texas Attorney General's Office continues its investigation into the hazardous chemical release that lasted 40 days from April to May, BP is now facing two lawsuits; both were filed on Tuesday -- one in federal court, the other in state court with similar allegations.

"BP knowingly and intentionally allowed thousands of workers out there at the Texas City refinery to be exposed to deadly and hazardous chemicals," attorney Jason Gibson said.

In fact, the investigation report from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality concludes it was an excessive emissions event that could have been prevented.

According to BP's own reporting, more than 500,000 pounds of pollutants, including 17,000 pounds of the carcinogen benzene, were released after a unit failure.

"Now they're biggest concern is, you know, what's gonna happen in the future," Gibson said.

Gibson is representing seven plant workers who say they only learned about risk after the fact.

"They did not get to make an informed decision about whether they should show up to work at that plant or not," he said. "Instead, they were repeatedly exposed on a daily basis to chemicals that were being released."

In a statement, BP would only say, "We don't comment on pending litigation."

"I don't hate BP, but I hate what they put out," Shurley said.

Shurley says the plant emits a myriad of odors. Now, more than ever, she questions their safety and backs the plaintiffs.

"BP should pay is all I have to say, because they're putting out stuff that's a danger to us," she said.

The lawsuit filed in federal court is asking for damages in excess of $10 billion. More than 2,200 people are part of that class action complaint, and that number includes some residents of Texas City.

The AG's office says its investigation is still in the early stages.


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