HOUSTON, Sept. 18, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- CITGO Petroleum Corporation is continuing its commitment to coastal restoration by dedicating volunteer hours and donations in support of National Estuaries Week, scheduled from Sept. 19-26. CITGO volunteers will participate in a series of restoration projects co-sponsored by Gulf Coast-based organizations affiliated with Restore America's Estuaries, the national leader and coordinator for National Estuaries Week.

This year, National Estuaries Week falls on a significant date for the Gulf Coast region, with September 26 marking the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Rita's landfall. As a company with operations in the Gulf Coast, CITGO witnessed first-hand the devastation caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita through its employees and its operations.

CITGO supports National Estuaries Week through its environmental stewardship initiative, Caring for Our Coast. This initiative, launched to commemorate the 10 years since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck the region, focuses on volunteer programs that advance natural habitat restoration and wetlands conservation along the Gulf Coast, as well as the enhancement of science, technology, math and engineering (STEM) education. Thus far in 2015, CITGO has committed resources for projects targeted to involve more than 2,500 volunteers contributing 12,000 hours of their personal time, with the goal of restoring nearly 4,000 acres.

As the Regional Gulf Coast Sponsor for National Estuaries Week, CITGO will gather volunteers for several conservation events throughout the Gulf, both preceding and following National Estuaries Week, these include:

  • Sept. 12 – Working with the Alabama Coastal Foundation to plant nearly 500 trees along a five acre site off the coast of Fowl River with 40 volunteers to protect and provide stable habitats to wildlife, in addition to improving water quality by filtering pollutants;
  • Sept. 19 – Supporting the Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain with 20 volunteers to revegetate approximately seven acres of coastal wetlands with 700 trees in Pass Christian, Miss., on the eastern side, adjacent to Bay St. Louis;
  • Sept. 26 – Gathering 250 volunteers with the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana to plant more than 60,000 dune grass plugs on the Cameron Shoreline in southwest Louisiana to prevent coastal erosion;
  • Sept. 26 – Assisting the Galveston Bay Foundation with a community-based ecosystem restoration event centered on the Sweetwater Nature Preserve with nearly 100 volunteers; and
  • Nov. 14 – Partnering with Tampa Bay Watch to organize a planting event to continue the support for America's estuaries year-round.

"With two refineries, eight terminals and 1,360 independently owned gas stations and a workforce of nearly 4,000 employees and contractors throughout the region, our commitment to the Gulf Coast runs deep," said CITGO President and CEO Nelson P. Martinez.  "Joining the volunteer movement efforts led by National Estuaries Week is one of the many ways we can continue to strengthen the coastlines that are critical to the prosperity of our region."

Estuaries are a crucial natural resource in the United States that include areas in which freshwater from rivers meet saltwater from the ocean and surrounding coastal habitats. As such, these areas are home to an extremely diverse ecosystem of plants and wildlife. However, due to depletion of coastal land and pollution, Restore America's Estuaries predicts that within 100 years, most of the world's wetlands will be lost if there is no outside intervention. This damage to our nation's estuarine ecosystem can be reversed through restoration projects, such as those included in the National Estuaries Week program.

"National Estuaries Week projects focus on improving water quality, rebuilding shorelines and opening up passages for fish in our nation's estuaries," said Jeff Benoit, President and CEO of Restore America's Estuaries. "Fortunately, the deterioration of estuaries is reversible. In 2014, we engaged more than 19,000 volunteers and completed nearly 84,000 service hours during National Estuaries Week. CITGO is an essential partner to our organization, and we are thankful for their commitment."

Throughout the year, CITGO partners regularly with several organizations affiliated with Restore America's Estuaries, including the Alabama Coastal Foundation, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, Galveston Bay Foundation, Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain and Tampa Bay Watch to lead the Gulf in environmental protection and restoration efforts. To learn more about Caring for Our Coast and the company's larger commitment to environmental stewardship, please visit www.citgocaringforourcoast.com or follow @CITGO on Twitter.

For more information on National Estuaries Week, including a calendar of events, you can visit: www.estuaries.org/national-estuaries-week, follow @RAEstuaries on Twitter or Restore America's Estuaries on Facebook.

CITGO, based in Houston, is a refiner, transporter and marketer of transportation fuels, lubricants, petrochemicals and other industrial products. The company is owned by CITGO Holding, Inc., an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A., the national oil company of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. For more information, visit www.CITGO.com.

SOURCE CITGO Petroleum Corporation