"Texas City Residents Unaware of Release At BP Refinery"

"For 40 days, flares burned 500,000 pounds of toxic chemicals over BP's Texas City refinery. Yet residents didn't know until weeks later that the flare released 17,000 pounds of cancer-causing benzene.

The reason: State law required BP to report the unauthorized release of chemicals only twice -- once when the incident began and once two weeks after it ended.

The company acknowledges the release and contends it posed no health threat, but the incident is prompting questions about the adequacy of state laws in informing residents when plants release poisons beyond permitted levels.

Texas law requires companies to report to regulators within 24 hours after an unpermitted release occurs and within two weeks after it ends. BP says it gave the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality three more verbal notices during the pollution event from April 6 to May 16.

But those were voluntary, and the law doesn't set a reporting schedule for ongoing events like the one last spring."

Monica Hatcher reports for the Houston Chronicle August 18, 2010.

Thursday, August 19, 2010