As a Texas personal injury attorney, I am accustomed to fighting to uphold the legal rights of average, hardworking Texans versus the seemingly omnipotent power wielded by major, often multinational corporations which routinely seek to take advantage of regular folks for the sake of further lining their own pockets.
Saturday’s oil spill in Galveston is yet another reminder that too often companies focus solely on profit, leading them to either purposely cut corners or else overlook – thereby condoning – negligence to occur.
Accidents inevitably result.
Sometimes this means terrible injuries or death to unlucky individuals. Other times it means disastrous consequences for an entire region. Such is the case with the Galveston oil spill.
The disaster occurred in Galveston Bay on Saturday when a 585-foot bulk carrier, Summer Wind, crashed into an oil barge carrying 900,000 gallons of the heavy tar-like marine fuel known as RMG 380. It is estimated that as much as 168,000 gallons of oil might have been dumped into the Gulf of Mexico.
Predictably, the spill is already having a massive effect on both the local economy and ecosystem.
The 50-mile Houston Ship Channel – one of the busiest waterways in the world for both commercial and cruise ships – has been shut down.
Galveston Bay has been shut down at a peak time of year for tourism and commercial fishing.
On top of financial loses surely amounting to multiple billions of dollars, there is also a significant environmental impact. This coastal area of Texas is home to tens – maybe even hundreds – of thousands of shorebirds which will be greatly impacted by this latest spill. That’s not to mention any of the other highly vulnerable species of wildlife in the area. And experts predict the spilled oil will persist in the local environment for months if not years.
Of course, Houston-based Kirby Inland Marine Corp., the owner of the barge that spilt the fuel into the sea, has already made a public apology and sworn to take responsibility for the cleanup costs.
That’s not good enough. It’s easy to say sorry in retrospect when you’re facing a PR disaster and the eyes of the world are upon you. But why was this situation allowed to occur in the first place?
It shouldn’t have.