BP will pay the federal government more than $500,000 and tighten up operations after environmental groups caught the London-based oil conglomerate emitting illegal amounts of lung-damaging soot at its refinery in northwest Indiana, just across the state border from Chicago.

The fines and instructions are outlined in a legal settlement filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Hammond. It marks the latest crackdown on one of the region’s biggest sources of air pollution, which a federal judge condemned in May for repeatedly failing to fix problems identified more than a decade ago.

At issue this time are massive arrays of equipment known as catalytic crackers that help turn crude oil into gasoline and other fuels.

Between 2016 and 2018, BP’s own testing found, crackers at its Whiting refinery emitted excessive concentrations of particulate matter, commonly known as soot. The company also failed to properly operate pollution-control equipment at times during the period, according to court records.

All of the wrongdoing detailed in the legal settlement is grounded in court documents endorsed by BP.

“We sued them in 2008 for Clean Air Act violations, reached an agreement with them to curb emissions in 2012, and now here we are in 2021 reaching another agreement after they violated the first one,” said Ann Alexander, senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Let’s hope this settlement is the end of the matter.”

BP’s Whiting operation is the nation’s sixth largest refinery, with a capacity to process more than 400,000 barrels of oil a day.

Eight years ago, the company agreed to spend $400 million to resolve various pollution complaints about the refinery. A coalition of nonprofit groups has paid close attention to its operations since then, prompting the new legal settlement with federal authorities.

Ruling in a separate case in May, U.S. District Court Judge Philip Simon chided BP for emitting illegal amounts of soot from boilers at the sprawling Whiting complex. That lawsuit remains unresolved.

Environmental groups nudged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Justice to intervene after Indiana officials refused to take action against BP. The state has a long history of siding with the oil giant and in the past has attempted to weaken limits on air and water pollution from the refinery.

Nonprofit groups involved in the case resolved Thursday included NRDC, the Environmental Integrity Project, the Environmental Law and Policy Center, Save The Dunes and the Sierra Club.

“While environmental groups initiated the enforcement actions … we greatly appreciate the hard work by the U.S. EPA and Justice Department to bring it across the finish line,” said Eric Schaeffer, a former EPA official who leads the Environmental Integrity Project.

Extracted in full from: BP settles another lawsuit over lung-damaging soot from Whiting refinery – Chicago Tribune