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Galveston Bay, Texas Oil Spill: 170,000 Gallons of Heavy Marine Fuel

UNDER-REPORTED ENVIRONMENTAL DISASTERS


On March 22nd, almost 170,000 gallons of heavy marine fuel poured into Galveston Bay on the Texas coast after two commercial boats collided in the busy waterway. In Indiana, on March 24th, energy giant BP spilled as many as 1600 gallons of oil — a mix of domestic crude and tar sands oil from Canada — into Lake Michigan, the primary source of drinking water for Chicago's seven million residents. And on March 17th, 20,000 gallons of pipeline oil leaked into a nature preserve in southwest Ohio. 


Galveston Bay, Texas, Oil Spill

The March shipping accident that dumped almost 170,000 gallons of RMG 380 marine fuel into Galveston Bay fouled the nation's seventh largest estuary, one that is second only to the Chesapeake Bay in seafood production. Unlike a larger 2010 spill at nearby Port of Texas, which was contained in a channel, this spill is in open water and the oil is now being spotted in the Gulf of Mexico. Environmentalists and commercial fisherman say the heavy fuel threatens every aspect of marine life in Galveston Bay as it could sink and smother fish, animals and birds. The Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary has reported hundreds of oiled birds at this, the start of spring migration. The bay is a nursery ground for baby crab and for shrimp who have just begun to spawn; once the oil enters the food chain at the bottom, it will contaminate other, larger species.

Who's responsibleThe investigation is ongoing. The company that owns and operates one of the boats was already on probation for a federal criminal pollution violation, pleading guilty in 2012 and ordered to pay a $300,000 fine.

Who suffersFish, marine animals and birds, and those involved in the area's multi-billion dollar commercial and recreational fishing industry. In late March, fifty local businesses filed a class action lawsuit in federal court against the two companies whose boats were involved in creating the spill.

Meanwhile, January's Elk River chemical spill, which contaminated the drinking water of 300,000 West Virginians,continues to frighten citizens, many of whom are still not drinking or bathing in it.

Pollution has long been an accepted cost of cheap energy production, particularly in states desperate for jobs. Big Energy is a powerful presence in Washington, working hard to block and gut environmental regulation and to defang the agencies tasked with protecting the country's natural resources. Weak or outdated laws governing toxic chemicals, and the absence of standardized oversight, tracking mechanisms or meaningful punishment for oil spills and leaks gives industry the leeway to keep polluting.

In the last twelve months, a rash of devastating oil, coal ash and chemical incidents have highlighted how extreme environmental degradation is now standard practice. 



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