This is insane: In 2007, the Citgo refinery in Corpus Christi was found liable of endangering the lives of some 800 residents when it left two gigantic oil tanks uncovered, exposing people to cancer-causing air pollutants like benzene. After Citgo was convicted of both civil and criminal violations of the Clean Air Act — the first such criminal conviction for a major oil company — the U.S. Justice Department recommended that the company pay the maximum $2 billion in fines, including $30 million for relocation, medical expenses, and restitution for the victims. This February, seven years after the conviction, a federal judge slapped Citgo with a puny $2 million fine instead, including $45,000 for birds killed due to toxic exposure.

As for restitution for the people, here’s what the judge awarded them last week: $0. This, despite the fact that Corpus Christi residents were classified as crime victims, eligible for financial renewal under the Crime Victims Rights Act — the first such designation for victims of air pollution. Citgo reaped at least a $1 billion from the deadly storage tanks, but its victims will see none of that, thanks to this week’s ruling from U.S. District Judge John D. Rainey.

The Daily Beast’s Jedidiah Purdy sums it up well:
The Citgo case is a classic environmental injustice. The victims, as mentioned, are mainly poor and minority. But it’s even worse than that. When environmental harms violate the legal rights of powerless people, like the right to clean air, the legal system responds lamely compared to the protection it gives patent holders, elite investors—or companies like Citgo when, for instance, environmental protesters trespass on their property. The rights that should protect poor people downwind of a refinery get treated as lightweight compared to the right to operate, invest in, and profit from the refinery.  MORE