United States, et al. v. Citgo Petroleum Corp., No. 11-31117 (5th Cir. 2013)Annotate this Case
A severe rainstorm in 2006 caused two wastewater storage tanks at CITGO's Lake Charles Louisiana refinery to fail and over two million gallons of oil flooded into the surrounding waterways. The United States filed suit against CITGO under the Clean Water Act (CWA), 33 U.S.C. 1321, seeking civil penalties and injunctive relief. The district court imposed a $6 million penalty against CITGO and ordered injunctive relief. Both parties appealed. The court concluded that the motion to dismiss was properly denied where there was no diligent prosecution by the State and no jurisdictional issue to resolve; the district court needed to have made a finding on the amount of economic benefit and that such a finding was central to the ability of the district court to assess the statutory factors and for an appellate court to review that assessment; the court vacated the civil penalty award and remanded for re-evaluation; at that time, the district court should reconsider its findings with respect to CITGO's conduct, giving special attention to what CITGO knew prior to the oil spill and its delays in addressing recognized deficiencies; and the court rejected the government's argument that the district court erred with respect to its findings on the amount of oil spilled.