CITGO Petroleum Corporation announced that the trial of United States vs. CITGO has concluded in Federal District Court in Corpus Christi, Texas. Citgo was found guilty of three misdemeanor counts of killing birds, but former environmental manager, Philip Vrazel, was exonerated of all charges.
CITGO's Corpus Christi refinery and Vrazel had been charged with violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in the deaths of several waterfowl found in its large equalization tanks in its wastewater treatment plant.
CITGO defended the accusations against Vrazel, but pleaded no contest on behalf of the refinery. The prosecution rejected this offer. At the time of the incident in 2003, the birds were recovered by CITGO, tagged and bagged, and voluntarily provided to agents of the Fish and Wildlife Department.
The trial exonerated CITGO for the deaths of 25 birds, but CITGO was found responsible for the deaths of 10 birds. CITGO claimed that Vrazel was not responsible for the deaths, and the District Judge released Vrazel from all charges.
Violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act are considered misdemeanors, and since 2003, CITGO has used netting and other means to keep birds out of its wastewater facilities. No further incidents have occurred since then.
CITGO will pay fines to be imposed by the court in October.