Jul 16, 2007

Two Charges Against Citgo Dropped, Three Remain

A federal judge dismissed two misdemeanor charges against Citgo, alleging that open tank’s at the company’s Corpus Christi refinery killed migratory birds. However, the company still must face three more similar charges next week.

According to the Houston Chronicle, the two dismissed charges accused Citgo's refinery and environmental manager Phil Vrazel of killing 25 birds protected by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty.

Last month Citgo was also convicted of felony violations of the Clean Air Act at its Corpus Christi East Plant.

The charges came due to the fact that Citgo allegedly had two open-air storage tanks illegally accumulating oil at the surface. Oil is deadly when ingested by birds, and 20 ducks and five pelicans were killed.

The Houston Chronicle reports that U.S. District Court Judge John D. Rainey dropped the charges against both the refinery and Vrazel. There is currently no explanation as to why these particular charges were dropped. The three charges that still remain center around dead birds found in Citgo's wastewater treatment plant. Both the refinery and Vrazel are named in as defendants in the remaining case.

The trial will resume Tuesday, and each count is punishable by a fine of up to $15,000.

Judge Rainey is also considering an additional felony charge against Citgo for alleged false statements about its compliance with federal air quality laws. If Rainey allows the charge, Citgo could face a separate jury trial in regards to that matter.