Kirby Inland Marine to pay $15.3m in damages over 2014 Houston oil spill

Houston, Texas-based Kirby Inland Marine has agreed to pay $15.3m in damages and assessment costs as a settlement that will resolve federal and state claims for the environmental damage caused by an oil spill in March 2014 from a Kirby barge in the Houston Ship Channel, according to the US Department of Justice.

In 2016 a related enforcement action saw the US secure a settlement with Kirby for $4.9m in civil penalties and injunctive relief measures to improve the company’s operations to help prevent future spills. At the same time the US and Texas filed civil complaint, along with a proposed consent decree.

The complaint, using the Oil Pollution Act, sought money damages and costs for the injuries to natural resources that resulted from the discharge of about 4,000 barrels of oil from one of its barges into the Houston Ship Channel.

The complaint alleged the spill resulted from a collision that occurred while a Kirby towboat attempted to push two 300ft oil barges across the Houston Ship Channel in front of an oncoming 585ft deep-draft bulk cargo ship that was already under way in the Channel.

The oil flowed from the Houston Ship Channel into Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, polluting waters and washing onshore from the collision site down to Padre Island National Seashore near Corpus Christi.

The oil spill caused significant harm to the Texas coastline including the wildlife refuge on Matagorda Island, and to aquatic and terrestrial habitats, as well as to dolphins and migratory birds, according to the DoJ

The oil spill also forced the closure of the Houston Ship Channel and disrupted recreational uses of the Texas coastline.