GALVESTON - Galveston attorney Tony Buzbee has filed a $500 billion lawsuit against BP Products North America on behalf of a group of Texas City and La Marque residents who claim to have their health jeopardized by a toxic release last year.

A lawsuit filed Aug. 23 in Galveston County District Court says the plaintiffs were exposed to approximately 540,000 pounds of chemicals and compounds including at least 17,000 pounds of benzene leaked from the petrochemical company's Texas City refinery between April 6 and May 16, 2010.

Plant manager Keith Casey is also a defendant in the case.

According to the original petition, the event started when the hydrogen compressor in the refinery's Ultracracker unit went offline.

"The hydrogen compressor is responsible for trapping noxious chemicals and, without it working, BP opted to send the gasses to a flare," the suit says.

"BP did this, even though it knew the flaring process would be, at best, incomplete and allow some chemicals to escape into the atmosphere."

The suit states BP followed the procedure for six weeks, continuing to operate the facility's Ultracracker.

The incident could have been avoided if BP had shut down a single operating unit, but instead the company went ahead with the release in an effort to avoid a slowdown in production and a resulting loss of millions of dollars in profit, the suit alleges.

A jury trial is requested.

Galveston County 405th District Court Judge Wayne Mallia is presiding over the case.

Case No. 11-cv-1358

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