Jury finds Citgo guilty of criminal Clean Air Act charges

In a legal first, oil refiner Citgo has been found guilty of criminal charges under the Clean Air Act. The case — involving two open-air storage tanks in Corpus Christi, Texas, that released the carcinogen benzene into the air — marks the first time criminal violations of the act have gone to trial; previous cases against refiners have been settled out of court. While the jury cleared Citgo of two charges that it knowingly released illegal levels of benzene, the refiner was nailed on two charges that it did not install proper pollution controls, also known as “roofs.” (The company has since covered one tank and is in the process of roofing the other.) A Justice Department official called the convictions “a strong signal … that emissions controls are not optional,” and environmental-justice activists exulted. A second trial begins July 9 to address five more counts against Citgo, which is owned by Venezuela’s state-run oil company. Ooh, the tangly nature of the oil biz never ceases to astound.