The nation's worst polluting plant is the BP PLC oil refinery where 15 workers died in an explosion last year, raising questions about whether the company has been underreporting toxic emissions. BP's Texas City refinery released three times as much pollution in 2004 as it did in 2003, according to the most recent data from the Environmental Protection Agency.That would come to about three times the toxic pollutants released by the second place polluter, an Exxon Mobil Corp. refinery in Baton Rouge, La.
The increase at BP was so large that it accounted for the bulk of a 15 percent increase in refinery emissions nationwide in 2004, the highest level since 2000.
The company reported that it released 10.25 million pounds of pollution in 2004, up from 3.3 million pounds the year before, according to EPA's Toxics Release Inventory, which tracks nearly 650 toxic chemicals released into the air, water and land.
Most of the increase in pollution was from formaldehyde and ammonia, which can form smog and soot and irritate the eyes, nose and throat.
BP has been having a hard time lately. They killed 15 workers in a March 23, 2005 explosion, earning them a 21.3 million OSHA fine and an ongoing criminal investigation. Last month, OSHA fined BP North America $2.4 million for unsafe operations at the company's Oregon, Ohio refinery near Toledo.
BP denies that the releases actually took place, blaming some kind of paperwork discrpency:
These were on-paper calculations -- not based on real measurements through valves or stacks," spokesman Neil Geary told the newspaper.I don't know what they mean by that. And I'm not the only one:
The Environmental Integrity Project, a Washington-D.C. based advocacy group, said the increase shouldn't be dismissed as merely an increase on paper.
"It's real; it just never got reported before," said Eric Shaeffer, a former EPA staffer and the organization's founder. "You can argue that it's not an increase, but the next sentence has to be, 'We've always been bad.'"