A group of Galveston area commercial and sports fishermen have filed the first lawsuit over Saturday’s oil spill in the Houston Ship Channel.
3G Fishing Charters LLC, Launch Waterfront Eatery LLC, Galveston Fishing Charter Co., Matt Garner doing business as All American Fishing Charters, 3G Bait and Tackle Shop LLC, Sammy Flores doing business as Salt Water Soul, Adam Kleczkowski, Greg Verm doing business as Fishing Galveston Texas, Caroline Cope and Scott Moss doing business as Bayou Bait Camp and Scotty’s Crabs filed the suit against Kirby Inland Marine LP and Cleopatra Shipping Agency Ltd. on March 24 in the Galveston Division of the Southern District of Texas.
On March 22, a collision occurred between a barge being pushed by the M/V Miss Susan and the 585-foot bulk carrier, M/V Summer Wind. As a result of the collision, the barge’s hull and tank were breached resulting in a large spill of marine fuel oil (also known as special bunker). The barge also sank to the bottom of the channel and lies partially submerged.
“At the time of this filing, it is unknown how much of the 924,000 gallons being carried by the barge was released into Galveston Bay, but the spill was very large and has had a wide and devastating effect on Galveston Bay, the Gulf of Mexico, and the people who use and depend on it,” the complaint states.
Sean O’Rourke of Simon-O-Rourke Law Firm PC in Houston is representing the plaintiffs.
The plaintiffs are businesses and individuals who rely on the natural resources found in and around Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, including its fish, shellfish, oysters, and other aquatic life for their livelihood and/or have property damage associated the collision and subsequent discharge of marine fuel oil into the surrounding water.
As individuals and as representatives of a potential class action, the plaintiffs claim they have suffered property losses, economic damages, and/or other costs (including removal costs) from the spill.
At the time of the filing, much of the marine traffic in the Bay has been stopped, and it is unknown how long marine traffic will be stopped.
“The spilled marine fuel oil has already caused tremendous damage to and its marine, coastal, and estuarine environments, which are used by Plaintiffs and the Class Members to earn their livelihoods,” the complaint states. “With the marine fuel oil still leaking, Plaintiffs and Class Members are suffering and will continue to suffer serious losses.”
The defendants are accused of negligence, gross negligence and willful misconduct, violations of the Oil Pollution Act, state law claims of nuisance, trespass and the plaintiffs are seeking punitive damages.
Attorney General Greg Abbott said, "The damage inflicted by this spill is a blow to small businesses, fishing, recreation, and the overall economy – but its ripple effects will be felt much wider. While emergency workers race to get the spill contained and cleaned, the attorney general's office will assist with the coordinated state response and has opened a civil investigation into this disaster.
Around 100 vessels are waiting on Tuesday to move through the channel as authorities continued efforts to contain and recover oil.