CITGO to Pay More Than $19 Million in Connection with Louisiana Oil Spill

According to a Department of Justice news release dated June 17, CITGO Petroleum Corp. settled an environmental lawsuit brought against it by state and federal authorities. Last week’s filing accused CITGO of discharging more than 54,000 barrels of oil-related waste into a Louisiana river, contaminating approximately 150 miles of coastline. The lion’s share of the $19.688 million settlement will be slated for natural resource recovery efforts, the press release stated.

The Western District of Louisiana complaint, concurrently filed with the parties’ proposed consent decree, alleged that CITGO discharged millions of gallons of waste oil and oily wastewater from storm surge and wastewater tanks at its treatment facility at its Lake Charles, Louisiana refinery. Specifically, though, the tanks were designed to serve as storm surge tanks, CITGO had allegedly been using them improperly to hold accumulated oil, sludge, and oily wastewater at its treatment unit.

During the two-day spill in June 2006, oil reportedly overflowed from the top of the two tanks during a rainstorm. The secondary containment berm around the tanks was flawed and failed in multiple places, allowing oil to reach the adjoining Indian Marais waterway and shorelines, then the Calcasieu River, estuary, and shorelines. The pollutants reportedly “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.”

The press release explained that the federal and state trustees will jointly use the funds to plan, design, and perform restoration projects. In addition, the consent decree allegedly secures more than $528,000 from CITGO in remaining, unremunerated injury assessment costs.

“While oil and gas producers are a major source of employment in Louisiana, they have a sacred obligation to protect our environment and use our resources wisely,” U.S. Attorney Alexander C. Van Hook for the Western District of Louisiana said in a statement. “This settlement sends a clear signal that those who pollute our environment will be held accountable.”