Energy & Environment

Supreme Court rules Citgo responsible for 2004 oil spill

Greg Nash

Citgo is liable for a 2004 oil spill and must pay back cleanup costs, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday.

In 2004, an oil tanker chartered by Citgo Asphalt Refining Company and others hit an anchor in the Delaware River, leading to the release of 264,000 gallons of heavy crude oil, according to court documents.

At the time, Frescati Shipping Company, which owned the vessel, and the U.S. together paid a total of $133 million to clean up the spill.

The court ruled 7-2 on Monday that Citgo and others are responsible for cleanup costs.

The majority opinion, authored by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, said a “safe-berth” clause in the charter contract should be interpreted as a safety warranty, meaning it was up to Citgo and others to make sure the tanker docked safely.

Disagreeing with the majority were conservative Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. Thomas argued in the dissenting opinion that the text of the contract’s safe-berth clause does not include a safety guarantee.

He wrote that there is a need for more information on whether industry standard establishes such a warranty.

Citgo President and CEO Carlos Jordá expressed disappointment with the ruling, but said the company would abide by the court’s decision.

“While we obviously have different views regarding the merits of our case, we respect the Court’s interpretation and can finally close this chapter on the Athos case,” Jordá said in a statement, referring to the Athos I vessel.

Updated at 12:42 p.m.

Tags Citgo Clarence Thomas oil spill Samuel Alito Sonia Sotomayor Supreme Court

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