Kirby Inland Marine Sued over 2019 Oil Spill by US Government

The United States of America and State of Texas filed a complaint against Kirby Inland Marine, LP in the Southern District of Texas yesterday for violations of the Oil Pollution Act due to an oil spill they allegedly caused by collision with a tanker ship.

The Oil Protection Act states that “each responsible party for a vessel or a facility from which oil is discharged … into or upon the navigable waters or adjoining shorelines or the exclusive economic zone is liable for the removal costs and damages.” On May 10th, 2019, “oil in the form of a gasoline blending stock known as reformate was discharged into the Houston Ship Channel from Kirby’s tank barge.” Then, “oil [was] discharged from the barge into the waterway and polluted parts of the Houston Ship Channel, Galveston Bay, and the Texas coastline.” 

Unfortunately, the oil spill “caused injury to, destruction of, loss of, or loss of use of ‘natural resources’ belonging to […] the United States” and “dead marine organisms, including fish and invertebrates, were observed at several locations along the western shoreline of Galveston Bay.” The government allegedly used “information from the response and preassessment work, including field observations, oil chemistry, oil toxicity from literature, modeling, and calculated reformate concentrations” in order to properly assess the necessary compensation required by Kirby.

The U.S. and Texas are seeking damages for injury to, destruction of, loss of, or loss of use of natural resources and other relief as deemed necessary.

The plaintiffs and defendant have entered into a proposed consent decree that is not currently being executed.