GALVESTON (AP) — BP was negligent and responsible for a 41-day emissions event in 2010 at its Texas City refinery, but there isn't enough evidence linking the pollution to illnesses, a Galveston jury found Thursday.
BP PLC has said that 500,000 pounds of toxic chemicals were released into the air when there was a technical problem at the refinery. The emissions event coincided with the company's efforts to plug a major oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
The jury unanimously agreed that the company was responsible for the pollution, but only one person wanted to award damages. Three people who said they became ill due to the pollution testified at the trial that began Sept. 11. The trial was designed as a test for a larger suit that includes 45,000 people. The jury deliberated for two days and three hours before reaching a verdict.
BP reached a settlement with Texas in November 2011 to pay an unprecedented $50 million fine for repeated violations at the aging refinery along the Gulf Coast. The settlement included the 2010 emissions event. The company also faces a $1 billion class-action lawsuit for a 15-day gas leak in November 2011 that residents say made them sick.
Last October, Marathon Oil agreed to buy the refinery for $2.5 billion.
"Today's verdict affirms BP's view that no one suffered any injury as a result of the flaring of the BP ultracracker flare during April and May 2010," BP spokesman Scott Dean was quoted as saying by the Galveston Daily News.
Tony Buzbee, the attorney for the residents, said he was surprised by the verdict.
"But I respect juries," Buzbee told the Houston Chronicle, adding that he learned at this trial a few things that will help with the remaining cases.