2020 Environmental Real Estate Issues

A barge company has agreed to pay $15 million in damages and assessment costs to resolve claims for injuries to natural resources under the Oil Pollution Act. According to the Complaint filed by the United States and the State of Texas, a towboat owned by the company, operating in fog, attempted to cross the Houston Ship Channel but was unable to cross in time to avoid having the barge it was pulling struck by a deep-draft cargo vessel, which had the right of way. The collision resulted in a spill of 4,000 barrels of fuel oil from the barge.

Damage to the Texas Coast
According to DOJ’s news release announcing the settlement, “oil flowed from the Houston Ship Channel into Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, polluting waters and washing onshore from the collision site down to Padre Island National Seashore near Corpus Christi.” The oil spill caused “injuries to the Texas coastline including the wildlife refuge on Matagorda Island, and to aquatic and terrestrial habitats,” and caused “lost recreational opportunities” from area beaches.

Company’s Cooperation
DOJ’s announcement acknowledged that the company was involved in “extensive response and cleanup efforts” and had “cooperated in the assessment of injuries to natural resources.”

Use of Settlement Funds
Under the proposed settlement, which is subject to a 30-day comment period, the company’s payment will be used “to plan, design and perform projects to restore or ameliorate the impacts to dolphins and other aquatic life, birds, beaches, marshes, and recreational uses along the Texas coast.”

To see the news release, which has links to the Complaint and proposed Consent Decree https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/barge-company-will-pay-over-15-million-injuries-natural-resources-resulting-oil-spill-houston