Kirby To Pay $15.3 Million To Settle Houston Ship Channel Oil Spill

Kirby Inland Marine LP has agreed to pay $15.3 million in damages and assessment costs resulting from an oil spill from a Kirby barge.

The settlement resolves federal and state claims under the Oil Pollution Act (OPA) , the U.S. Department of Justice announced December 2.
The incident occurred in 2014 when about 4,000 barrels of oil discharged into the Houston Ship Channel from a Kirby barge at the Texas City “Y” crossing. The complaint filed by Texas and the Department of Justice alleged that the spill occurred because a Kirby towboat, the mv. Miss Susan, pushed two 300-foot-long barges into the path of the oncoming mv. Summer Wind, a 585-foot deep-draft bulk cargo vessel that was already underway. 

The oil flowed into Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, with some washing ashore at the Padre Island National Seashore near Corpus Christi. The complaint said the spill caused “significant impacts and injuries to the Texas coastline,” including a wildlife refuge on Matagorda Island, as well as to aquatic and dolphin habitats and migratory birds. Kirby cooperated with the state and U.S. Coast Guard in cleanup and restoration efforts.

Under the proposed consent decree, Kirby will pay $15.3 million that will be used by federal and state trustees to design projects to ameliorate the impacts to dolphins, aquatic birds, beaches and other natural resources in the affected areas. Kirby has already been paying federal and state authorities for their assessment work, as required under OPA.

The state trustees are the Texas General Land Office, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. 

Kirby had already paid a related $4.9 million settlement in civil penalties and injunctive relief measures to improve operations and prevent future spills.