Chicago has long been a poster child for the fossil fuel industry’s negative effects on health and the environment. The Chicago metropolitan region still violates federal air quality standards for harmful ozone and particulate matter pollution, mostly due to the many coal-fired power plants in the area.
Now, BP, one of the worst offenders, has announced that it will spend $400 million to install new controls that will significantly reduce noxious air pollution from its massive refinery in northwest Indiana. Controls include a state-of-the-art system to reduce the flaring of refinery gas as well as additional controls and practices to lower emissions from process equipment throughout the refinery. In addition, BP says it will implement a refinery fence line monitoring system to provide air quality information to the local community. The results will be posted online weekly, providing those who live nearby with facts about how dirty their air actually is.
The announcement is part of a settlement with the government and environmental groups which accused BP of violating a 2001 legal deal over previous pollution problems and cited the company for repeatedly exceeding emissions limits on refinery flares that release harmful chemicals during frequent malfunctions. In addition to its agreement to install the preventative equipment, BP will also pay $8 million in fines resulting from these violations.
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, and other environmental organizations that participated in the agreement, BP’s investment should reduce harmful air pollution by about 4,000 tons annually at the plant. Those who worked on the agreement are hopeful that it will serve as an example for dealing with large refineries in other states.
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