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$10B Lawsuit Against BP Over TX Refinery Emissions

By Laura Strachan, Esq. on August 09, 2010 7:02 AM

Disclaimer: This is not a post about BP gulf oil spill. BP is in the news for what looks to be another very expensive problem on their hands -- a $10 billion lawsuit over the company's Texas refinery emissions. The class action claims that the refinery released 500,000 pounds of pollutants, including benzene, during spring of this year. The BP class action was filed Tuesday by Texas-based attorney Anthony Buzbee. In addition to a 40-day delay in alterting city officials to the leak, the class action alleges that the pollutants have affected the health and property values of the people who live and work in the area surrounding the refinery.

Health complaints include: allergic reactions, siunus infections, headaches, nosebleeds, and other symptions consistent with exposure to a noxious substance, reports the Houston Chronicle. The Texas refinery, the third largest in the U.S., has been on probation for a felony enviornment conviction relating to a 2005 explosion that killed 15, and caused a similar release of benzene and other toxins into the local community.

The Associated Press notes some interesting internal policies that may have contributed to the leak: BP management at the Texas refinery focused on cutting maintenance and capital spending costs, and managers' performance was partially measured by their ability to meet these cost-saving initiatives. How this focus affected the leak will be up for a judge and jury to decide. Local attorney working on the class action, Chad Pinkerton told the Chronicle, "I believe that this is the largest prolonged relase in Texas history and many, many people are sick."

As the name implies, a class action is a lawsuit in which a group of people with the same or similar injuries sue the defendant as a group. In cases involving mass torts, effeciency in bringing one, as opposed to thousands of individual actions, can be helpful both for the plaintiffs and defendants. Thousands of people have flocked to parking lots, conference rooms, and city hall to learn more about the suit and become members in this quickly growing BP class action.

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