CITGO will pay nearly $20M for Calcasieu River oil discharge

(Courtesy CITGO)

CITGO Petroleum Corporation has agreed to pay $19.69 million to resolve federal and state claims for natural resource damages under the Oil Pollution Act and the Louisiana Oil Spill Prevention and Response Act.

The fine under the Oil Pollution Act and the Louisiana Oil Spill Prevention and Response Act is to address injuries to natural resources resulting from CITGO’s major oil discharge into the Calcasieu River in June of 2006 from its wastewater treatment facility at its Lake Charles refinery.

The complaint alleges that CITGO discharged millions of gallons of waste (slop) oil and oily wastewater from two ten-million-gallon storm surge and wastewater tanks at its treatment facility at the Lake Charles refinery. Approximately 150 miles of shoreline were polluted with CITGO’s oil, including residential and marsh areas. The discharged oil killed birds and fish and other aquatic life, contaminated aquatic and shoreline habitats, forced the closure of the ship channel, and disrupted recreational uses of the impacted river and lakes.

“Oil companies have a responsibility to protect our waters, people, wildlife and diverse habitats from oil spills, and those who violate that duty will be held accountable for the harms they cause,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jean E. Williams for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “We are glad to work with our federal and state natural resource partners on this major effort to help restore and enhance the environment in Louisiana.”

Some $19.16 million is for natural resource damages for the spill, which the federal and state trustees will jointly use to plan, design and perform restoration projects to compensate for the harms caused. The consent decree also secures payment from CITGO for the trustees’ remaining unpaid injury assessment costs, which total over $528,000.

In an earlier related Clean Water Act enforcement trial spearheaded by the United States on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency, the district court determined that the cause of this avoidable disaster was CITGO’s gross negligence in the operation and maintenance of its wastewater treatment facility and the lack of adequate storage and treatment capacity.

Read the full announcement from the U.S. Department of Justice.