The Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will hold three community meetings in Corpus Christi, Texas next week to assist area residents who have suffered immediate negative health effects from emissions from the CITGO refinery.
The community meetings will be held at the Oveal Williams Senior Living Center at 1414 Martin Luther King Drive in Corpus Christi on the following dates:
· Thursday, October 25, from 12:00 p.m. until 8:00 pm
· Friday, October 26, from 9:00 am until 7:30 pm
· Saturday October 27, from 9:00 am until 6:00 pm
On Sept. 14, 2012, U.S. District Judge John D. Rainey issued an order directing the government to announce that any member of the community at large who believes they may be a crime victim and wishes to participate in the proceeding is made aware of their potential rights. Persons living around the CITGO refinery’s tanks 116 and 117 that were operated between January 1994 and May 2003 in violation of the federal Clean Air Act, may be crime victims in United States v. CITGO Petroleum Corporation et al.
The government is asking that members of the community who believe they may be victims under the order and who have not previously submitted a victim impact statement either attend the community meetings from Oct. 25-27, 2012, or request and submit a victim impact statement by email at firstname.lastname@example.org . Community members should email or drop off their victim impact statements during the community meetings or at the U.S. Attorney’s Office at 800 N. Shoreline Blvd., Ste. 500 in Corpus Christi on or before Nov. 1, 2012.
Under the Crime Victim’s Rights Act, persons who are directly and proximately harmed by the commission of a crime are crime victims and have certain, enumerated rights under the law. In this instance, community members may be considered crime victims based on the immediate negative health effects they suffered from breathing noxious fumes from Tanks 116 and 117 during the 1994 – 2003 time frame. Persons who will be seeking restitution for financial losses or health costs should bring or submit supporting documentation.
At the community meeting, the Texas Environmental Crimes Task Force, made up of agents from the U.S. EPA, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Texas Parks and Wildlife, and the FBI, along with the Victim/Witness Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas, will be on hand to provide Victim Impact Statements and answer questions.
In June 2007, a jury convicted CITGO Petroleum Corporation and CITGO Refining and Chemicals Company L.P. for illegally operating two massive tanks at their Corpus Christi East Plant Refinery between January 1994 and March 2002. The tanks were the source of emissions including benzene, a known carcinogen, which may have affected persons in the surrounding communities of Hillcrest and Oak Park. Witnesses at the trial testified that emissions from the tanks could be detected in Oak Park and Hillcrest in the form of strong gaseous type odors.
On Sept. 25 and 26, 2007, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency held community meetings in Corpus Christi during which more than 300 persons submitted victim impact statements. The current order is to identify any additional persons who may qualify as crime victims.