Oil on the loose in Galveston Bay

Coast Guard Photo Response to 2014 Houston Ship Channel Oil SpillA cleanup worker gathers oil on the shore of the Texas City Dike, March 24, 2014. Photo courtesy of USCG/Stephen Lehmann.On Saturday, March 22nd, a bulk carrier collided with a barge containing a million gallons of fuel oil in Galveston Bay, Texas - spilling approximately 168,000 gallons of oil into the surrounding environment. This spill, which closed the busy Houston Ship Channel for several days, occurred near important habitat for migratory birds, including the Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary. To date, the Coast Guard is reporting that 28 birds and 15.5 miles of beach have been impacted by the oil. The Houston Chronicle has an dramatic set of photos showing oiled wildlife and beaches, and cleanup efforts.

This most recent oil disaster is a grim reminder of the impacts of dirty energy on our communities and environment. Twenty-five years after the Exxon-Valdez disaster in Alaska and nearly four years after the BP disaster, little appears to have changed when it comes to oversight and monitoring of the oil and gas industry. It seems like every time I open a newspaper, there is a new spill.

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And these dirty energy spills have long-term consequences. Marine populations in Alaska are still feeling the effects of oil, and just this week a new study came out linking BP’s oil to impacts on the heart health of Gulf species like bluefin tuna and amberjack.

Our communities and environment deserve better. State and federal decision makers need to take real action to improve oversight of the oil and gas industry, and prevent future disasters in the Gulf and elsewhere. Fully implementing the safety recommendations of the bipartisan National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling would be a good start.

For more on the Texas spill, visit our friends at the Galveston Baykeeper’s website.

Raleigh Hoke is GRN’s Communications Director.