Marilyn Tennissen Apr. 23, 2013, 12:19pm

A $1 million settlement of environmental violations by a European shipping company will have a significant impact on a popular local waterway.

The settlement was announced by U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas John M. Bales at a press conference on the banks of Village Creek in Hardin County on April 22.

CIMPSHIP Transportes Maritimos S.A., a Portuguese corporation headquartered in Funchal, Portugal, was indicted in 2010 and charged with conspiring to violate environmental laws and causing willful pollution of waterways within the Eastern District of Texas.

According to the indictment, CIMPSHIP owned the Niebla, a 38,000-ton, ocean-going bulk-freighter transporting cargo from various ports along the Gulf Coast, including Port Arthur.  It is alleged that from March 2008 through August 2009, Niebla crew members failed to maintain an Oil Record Book as required by federal law.

The government and CIMPSHIP reached a settlement in which CIMPSHIP agreed to make a $1 million community service payment to be used for local conservation efforts in lieu of prosecution.  Federal statutes authorize such settlements to Congressionally-approved foundations, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Of the $1 million, $600,000 was provided to

The Conservation Fund, a nonprofit organization that works to conserve special places in Texas and across the country, will receive $600,000 of the settlement to purchase an important parcel of land in a sensitive portion of the Big Thicket National Preserve, located near Village Creek in Hardin County.

The remaining $400,000 was provided to the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation and used to support research and monitoring activities at the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary.

The Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary is home to the northernmost coral reef on the U.S. continental shelf approximately 90 miles southwest of Sabine Pass in the Gulf of Mexico.

This case was investigated by the U.S. Coast Guard and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph R. Batte and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin D. Collins.

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