On Monday, April 23, U.S. Attorney John M. Bales called a press conference to announce that a $1 million settlement has been reached with a European shipping corporation resulting in “significant enhancements to nature conservation groups in the Eastern District of Texas” such as Village Creek located in Hardin County.
According to information from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, CIMPSHIP Transportes Maritimos, S.A., a Portuguese corporation headquartered in Funchal, Portugal, was initially indicted in 2010 and charged with conspiring to violate environmental laws causing willful pollution of waterways within the Eastern District of Texas. As cited in the indictment, CIMPSHIP owned the Niebla, a 38,000-ton ocean-going ship, which was operated as a bulk-freight carrier transporting bulk cargo from various ports in 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.
A settlement agreement was reached between the government and CIMPSHIP in which CIMPSHIP agreed to pay a $1 million community service payment to be used for local conservation efforts in lieu of prosecution. Of the $1 million, $600,000 was provided to The Conservation Fund, a nonprofit organization that works to conserve select places in Texas and across the country, and used to purchase a critical parcel of land in a sensitive portion of the Big Thicket National Preserve. The 361 acres are 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, according to Bales’ office. The Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary is home to the northernmost coral reef on the U.S. continental shelf and boasts a habitat that is relatively pristine, due in part to protective sanctuary regulations. The sanctuary is located approximately 90 miles southwest of Sabine Pass in the Gulf of Mexico.