British energy giant BP has pledged to pay a record $15 million fine to the U.S. government for releasing pollutants into the air at its Texas refinery, officials said Thursday.
The Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said in a joint statement that BP Products North America, a U.S. subsidiary of the group, "has agreed to pay a $15 million penalty to resolve federal Clean Air Act violations at its Texas City, Texas, petroleum refinery."
The penalty is the largest to date assessed for civil violations of the act's chemical accident prevention regulations, they said.
The settlement, which requires court approval, addresses violations during three incidents at the refinery: two fires, in March 2004 and July 2005, and a leak in August 2005.
During each incident, people in the surrounding Texas City community were ordered to shelter-in-place as thousands of pounds of flammable and toxic air pollutants were released, the statement said.
"The settlement also resolves allegations that BP failed to identify all regulated hazardous air pollutants used at the refinery in plans submitted to EPA," it added.
The settlement agreement came as BP works to rebuild its damaged reputation in the United States after a series of accidents, including the Deepwater Horizon disaster in April in the Gulf of Mexico, the country's worst environmental disaster.
The company's new chief executive, Bob Dudley, on Wednesday said he would launch a major shake-up of the company in the wake of the Gulf disaster, creating a powerful safety division and overhauling the group's structure.
Dudley, who officially starts his job Friday, said the actions were needed "to rebuild trust in BP -- the trust of our customers, of governments, of our employees and of the world at large."
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010