HOUSTON — The BP Texas City refinery, notorious for the deaths of 15 workers in March 2005, has been cited as the worst polluter in the United States. The pollution released from the plant tripled in 2004 as compared to 2003, according to reports from the Environmental Protection Agency.

In 2004, refinery emissions in the U.S. were at the highest level since 2000. The increase at BP accounted for the bulk of the 15 percent increase in emissions nationwide.

BP reported that it released 10.25 million pounds of pollution in 2004 compared with 3.3 million pounds the year before. The EPA said the BP Texas City refinery released more than three times the pollutants released by the second largest polluter, an Exxon Mobil refinery in Baton Rouge, La.

Formaldehyde and ammonia accounted for most of the increase. These substances form smog and soot and can irritate the eyes, nose and throat.

BP was hit with a record $21.3 million fine from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for 300 safety and health violations found at the Texas City refinery following the 2005 accident. That accident also injured 170 workers.

All this misery unleashed upon the community occurs in the context of BP financial statements saying, “BP distributed more than $7.5 billion to shareholders in the first half of 2005 in share buybacks and dividends.”

The egregious violations of environmental standards are not a first for BP. The Air Quality Management District of Orange County, Calif., filed two lawsuits seeking more than $597 million in penalties from BP for air quality violations at the company’s Carson refinery in 2003 and 2005.

BP’s operations in Russia, too, have been cited for pollution. George Galloway, a member of the British Parliament, wrote a letter to BP CEO John Browne in July 2005 complaining of the company’s environmental violations in three different regions of Russia. He urged that BP conduct an investigation of the incidents.

BP also has a legacy of supporting apartheid in South Africa. In 1990, BP America cut its funding of the Cleveland NAACP Freedom Fund dinner when it learned that the theme was opposition to apartheid.

BP was named by Citizen Action in 1990 as among the top 10 polluters in the U.S. Its plants in Lima, Ohio, were “far and away the biggest polluters in Ohio” in 1988. The Lima plants also led Ohio in chemical accidents between 1978 and 1988, according to the Ohio EPA.