United States Attorney John Bales has announced a settlement reached with a European shipping corporation has resulted in significant enhancements to nature conservation groups in the Eastern District of Texas.
The $1 million settlement was announced at a press conference on the banks of Village Creek in Hardin County, Texas.
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.
According to 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, Texas.
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.
Federal statutes authorise such settlements to Congressionally-approved Foundations.
Of the $1 million, $600,000 was provided to The Conservation Fund, a nonprofit organisation that works to conserve special 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.
The Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary is home to the northernmost coral reef on the US 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, Texas in the Gulf of Mexico.
This case was investigated by the US Coast Guard (USCG) and prosecuted by Assistant US Attorney Joseph Batte and former Assistant US Attorney Kevin Collins.