USA vs. Citgo

After nearly six weeks in court, a federal criminal air pollution case against Citgo Petroleum Corp. could be decided as early as today. And many in the U.S. refining industry are likely to be tuned in for the results.
That’s because the case is considered an important test of the Clean Air Act, with precedent-setting potential for how the law is enforced among refiners.
A Houston Chronicle story Saturday discusses what is at stake for Citgo, the Houston-based arm of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company.
The case takes aim at the company’s Corpus Christi refinery for operating two open-air tanks without emission controls that prevent the release of benzene, a compound research has linked to cancer. Prosecutors said it is the first case of its kind to go to court.
Though the alleged violations took place early in the decade, attorneys for the Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency said it has taken years to build a case.
“It’s not like robbing a bank,” said Howard Stewart, the DOJ’s lead prosecutor in the case. “These are violations that happen over a long period of time.”
Citgo, for its part, said it is innocent of all charges and proud of its environmental record.
The jury in the case began deliberations Friday afternoon in Corpus Christi federal court. They were scheduled to resume today.