DOJ Sues Transportation Company Faulted for 2008 Oil Spill

A suit was filed Monday in the Eastern District of Louisiana by plaintiffs the United States of America and the State of Louisiana against defendant American Commercial Barge Line, LLC (ACBL). The plaintiffs filed suit against the defendant per the request of a host of federal and state organizations and agencies including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the United States Department of the Interior, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and the United States Department of Commerce, the State of Louisiana and more.

The complaint alleges that ACBL violated the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 as well as the Louisiana Oil Spill Prevention and Response Act, violations that are the result of “an oil spill caused by the collision of the ocean-going tanker M/V TINTOMARA with ACBL’s tanker barge DM-932 under tow by the M/V MEL OLIVER.”

The defendant, ACBL, owned a tanker that was navigating the Mississippi River on July 23, 2008, when it collided with another vessel, resulting in the release of 6,734 barrels of oil over a two-week period. In addition to resource damage, the sudden disturbance caused the river to become closed to commerce and human use activities, the complaint said.

The spill ultimately led to the “injury to, destruction of, loss of, or loss of use of “natural resources” belonging to, managed by, held in trust by, appertaining to, or otherwise controlled by the United States.” The plaintiff is charging ACBL with natural resource damage under two violated acts.

The Oil Pollution Act holds companies who pollute water through oil discharge liable for both removal costs and damages. Further, the Louisiana Oil Spill Prevention and Response Act “provides that a responsible party shall make full payment or initiate restoration, rehabilitation, replacement, or mitigation of damages to natural resources.”

The plaintiffs are seeking an award representative of the damages from the injury, destruction, and loss of natural resources caused by the oil spill, in addition to other relief deemed appropriate by the court.