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DOJ (202) 514-2008

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Announcement Part Of Comprehensive, Coordinated Effort To Stop Pollution Of River That Has Resulted in Over 50 Criminal Convictions

ST. LOUIS, MO -- Citing the Mississippi River as a national treasure that should be restored and protected, Attorney General Janet Reno and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Carol Browner today announced that Shell Oil Company will pay to expand water quality and wildlife protection on the Mississippi River as part of an agreement to resolve allegations that it violated national pollution laws. They also announced a new Justice Department complaint filed today against Clark Refining and Marketing, a St. Louis based firm, for illegally polluting a Mississippi River tributary. Scores of criminal and other actions have been taken to protect the River from pollution.

Both cases are part of a comprehensive, coordinated federal effort, known as the Mississippi River Initiative, to keep illegal pollution ranging from raw sewage to industrial waste out of the River and to restore the River and surrounding communities to its historic grandeur. The cases being announced today as part of the initiative include the conviction of 54 criminal defendants, over $10 million worth of criminal penalties and restitution and over eight years in prison terms.

It also has produced 18 civil judicial actions worth over 18 million dollars in civil penalties and 93 administrative cases involving 104 facilities worth $900,000 in civil penalties. These cases addressed violations which included illegal dumping from barges, illegal filling of wetlands, spills of oil and other hazardous materials, sewer overflows, and discharges of chemicals such as cyanide, heavy metals and hydrofluoric acid into the Mississippi River or its tributaries.

"The Mississippi River is a part of our national heritage. We have a responsibility to restore and protect it not just for this generation, but also for all of those to come," said Attorney General Janet Reno in remarks to an audience of federal prosecutors, local governmental officials, environmental leaders, and concerned citizens in St. Louis. "To those who think that they can get away with illegally polluting our River, we say this: we will work together at all levels of government to find you, prosecute you and make you clean up the mess you've made. You could even go to prison."

"The action that we are taking today sends a clear signal that this Administration will take the necessary steps to protect public health and the environment, especially when it involves one of our greatest natural resources like the Mississippi River," said EPA Administrator Carol Browner. "We have made tremendous progress, but must continue to ensure the protection of water quality and wildlife throughout the River and surrounding communities."

Reno and Browner were joined at the event today by more than 10 U.S. Attorneys representing cities all along the Mississippi River. The Initiative is one of several recent Administration efforts designed to enhance and protect the nation's waterways. It employs the cooperative efforts of the Department of Justice, the EPA's civil and criminal enforcement groups, the U.S. Customs Service, other U.S. Attorneys, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state attorneys general, state environmental agencies, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and other state and local leaders to stop illegal point-source pollution in the River. Point-source pollution is discharged material that can be traced to a specific original source, usually a public or private sewer system or industrial discharge.

The Mississippi River Initiative began as a way to address the unprecedented amount of pollution currently contaminating the River. In September 1997, representatives from affected U.S. Attorney's offices met in St. Louis for two days with officials from the Justice Department to discuss the state of the Mississippi River and how best to work together to stop point-source pollution and clean up the River.

While the Mississippi River Initiative addresses point-source pollution, the EPA and the Department of Agriculture are leading an Administration wide effort to address nonpoint-source pollution through the President's Clean Water Action Plan. Nonpoint-source pollution is all other pollution in the River, comprising mostly agricultural runoff. The Plan builds on the Administration's commitment to providing clean, safe water for all Americans by strengthening existing clean water programs and proposing new actions to enhance efforts that restore and protect water resources.

"The Mississippi River is unique in our country because of its economic and symbolic importance," said Lois J. Schiffer, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division at the Department of Justice. "The health of the River directly affects its ability to support economic activity. The 'Mighty Mississippi' is a symbol of America's greatness -- both past and future."

Criminal prosecution has been key to environmental enforcement on the River. In one case, the owner of Ray's Automotive Supply in St. Louis received 37 months in prison for unlawful disposal of hazardous waste and conspiracy to transport hazardous waste unlawfully. In another, former operators of the Barrett Refinery in Vicksburg, Mississippi were indicted just two weeks ago for 16 felony environmental crimes, including a criminal conspiracy to dump toxic pollutants into the Mississippi.

"Our message to environmental criminals is that you will not only be fined and be forced to repair damage done to the environment; you will also be sent to prison," said Edward L. Dowd, Jr., U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri. "Polluters must be aware that they cannot get away with just paying a fine. All of the resources of local, state and federal governments are aimed squarely at people who pollute our water."

As part of the Mississippi River Initiative, the Attorney General and Administrator Browner today made two announcements that involve major oil refineries along the River or its tributaries: U.S. v. Shell, et al. and U.S. v. Clark Refining and Marketing, Inc.. Both are civil matters. The Shell case has been handled by DOJ's Environment and Natural Resources Division and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Illinois, and the Clark case is being handled by DOJ's Environment and Natural Resources Division and the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Northern District of Illinois.

After hundreds of environmental violations at Shell Oil Company's Wood River oil refinery (located on the banks of the Mississippi River in Roxanna, Illinois, near St. Louis), Shell and its affiliates have consented to a judicial decree that will require Shell to achieve and certify compliance with all environmental laws at the Wood River refinery, perform supplemental environmental projects valued at over $10 million (and including added protections of Mississippi River water quality), and pay $1.5 million in civil penalties -- of which $500,000 will be paid to the U.S. co-plaintiff, the State of Illinois.

Environmental problems at Wood River included: illegal levels of sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide air emissions, violations of emission standards for benzene (a hazardous air pollutant), violations of solid waste labeling, reporting, and manifesting requirements, untimely reporting of emissions of extremely hazardous substances such as ammonia and chlorine, and violations of Illinois water regulations.

One of the supplemental environmental projects required by the consent decree requires Shell to expand water quality and wildlife protection on the Mississippi River. Under the decree, Shell must purchase $500,000 worth of land adjacent to the Mississippi River and must then transfer ownership of that property to the State of Illinois. The land must be appropriate for wetlands preservation, water quality protection, and wildlife conservation purposes. Another project will reduce air emissions of sulfur dioxide by 7700 tons per year and nitrogen oxides by 940 tons per year.

"In settling this case, the federal government has followed the basic principle that polluters will be required to pay for and correct the damage they cause, as well as prevent future damage," said Steve Herman, EPA's Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "The agreement, which addresses air, water, and hazardous waste violations, reflects our commitment to address public health and environmental problems comprehensively and effectively."

Shell and several affiliates, recently including Texaco Corporation, have owned and operated the Wood River refinery for many years. Wood River has been in operation since 1917, and today the facility covers over 2,000 acres. This refinery can process approximately 250,000 barrels of crude oil per day into end-products including propane, gasoline, aviation fuel, diesel oil, heating and lubricating oils, heavy fuel oil, and asphalt.

"These severe penalties will not only force Shell Oil into environmental compliance, but will also reinforce the message that we will not tolerate environmental degradation of our country's greatest natural resources," said W. Charles Grace, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois. "Requiring Shell to purchase a half million dollars in land adjacent to the River to donate to the State is an innovative and appropriate method to punish the polluter and preserve our national heritage simultaneously."

In the enforcement action against Clark Refining and Marketing ("Clark"), the United States alleges that the company's Blue Island petroleum refinery (located in Blue Island, Illinois, near Chicago) has violated five federal statutes: the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act , the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act. The complaint requests that the court enjoin the company from further violations of the environmental laws at Blue Island and assess appropriate civil penalties.

The water-related violations alleged against Clark's Blue Island refinery include illegal discharges into the Cal-Sag Channel West of Chicago. The Channel's waters flow into the Mississippi River. Other violations of the Clean Water Act alleged at Blue Island include dozens of discharges of illegal levels of pollutants to the local, publicly owned, wastewater treatment plant. The United States also believes that Blue Island has illegally bypassed wastewater treatment equipment and introduced into sewer systems dangerously high levels of pollutants that posed risks of fire or explosion. The United States alleges that Blue Island has discharged oil or hazardous substances into navigable waters of the United States on more than 15 different occasions between October 1993 and October 1997, including a 1,000 gallon spill into an adjoining waterway in 1994.

Blue Island has been in operation, under various owners, since the 1920's. It has operated under the Clark name since it was sold to Emery Clark in 1943. St. Louis-based Clark Refining and Marketing, Inc. has owned and operated the facility at all times relevant to this enforcement action. Blue Island processes approximately 80,000 barrels of crude oil per day. Principal end products include gasoline, liquid petroleum gas, jet fuel, diesel fuel, heating fuel, and asphalt.