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Verdicts & Settlements

Federal Judge Says BP Violated Emissions Laws at Indiana Plant

— April 15, 2021

A hearing will be heard at a later date to determine possible monetary damages.

On Wednesday, a federal judge found that BP has repeatedly violated national-level laws governing soot emissions.

According to The Chicago Tribune, U.S. District Judge Philip P. Simon’s decision was based largely upon the results of nine pollution tests the Britain-based oil company provided the Indiana Department of Management. Covering the years 2015-2018, the tests suggested that BP’s Whiting, Indiana, plant does not comply with federal emissions law.

The Tribune notes that eight of the tests showed BP boilers releasing large quantities of particulate matter—soot—in excess of permitted limits.

Although BP was obligated to correct its soot problem, the company failed to take adequate action to reduce its emissions.

Two nonprofit groups—The Sierra Club and the Environmental Integrity Project—then filed a lawsuit against BP, hoping to convince the courts to take action.

The lawsuit, says the Chicago Tribune¸ was filed only after Indian state officials declined to take any formal action or otherwise punish BP.

“Sierra Club has submitted uncontroverted evidence that BP violated this testing requirement,” Judge Simon wrote in his 28-page determination. “So nothing more is needed at this stage of litigation.”

Simon also criticized arguments made by BP attorneys, who alleged that the Sierra Club and its members had not proven that the Whiting plant’s emissions are actually harmful.

Image via Dor/Wikimedia Commons. (CCA-BY-3.0)

In response, Simon said BP’s defense amounted to little more than an attempted “end run around obvious violations.”

However, Judge Simon has yet to issue any ruling as to whether he will grant the plaintiffs’ request for monetary damages.

Nevertheless, Bowden Quinn—the director of the Sierra Club’s Hoosier Chapter—said Simon’s decision represents a major victory for his organization as well as the Environmental Integrity Project.

“Today’s ruling stamps out BP’s profit-over-people approach and ensures it will be held accountable for endangering Northwest Indianans’ health and safety with their dangerous emissions,” Quinn wrote in a statement reprinted by

Similarly, Sierra Club attorney Sanghyun Lee said Simon’s ruling reaffirms and upholds corporate accountability.

“Judge Simon’s decision merely reaffirms the core principle that violators can and must be held accountable for their unlawful pollution,” Lee said. “Compliance with permit terms is just a basic cost of doing business, and regulated entities like BP cannot just reap the benefits of noncompliance for years at the expense of the health and welfare of local residents.”

The Chicago Tribune notes that a hearing on monetary damages will be held at a later date.


Federal judge rules BP violated air pollution standards

Federal judge slaps BP for emitting too much lung-damaging soot from its Whiting refinery on Lake Michigan

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