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Galveston Bay Oil Spill: A Lesson In a Series of Lessons

Lessons still go unlearned.
Lessons still go unlearned.
U.S. Coast Guard

Mark Twain's declaration that "History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme" is an appropriate and memorable reminder in the wake of the March 24, Galveston Bay oil spill. It's one more prompt that environmental abuses, whether by negligence, human error, or political gain, need our attention now.

Not only does this disaster affect the economy, with many local bay businesses losing up to a thousand dollars a day during peak tourist season, but the long term damage to wildlife and the bay itself will take many years to calculate.

Sadly, the last five days of reporting featured more news articles of the spill's dollars and cents effect, than the irreversible environmental impact to the area.

The timing of the bay's accident couldn't have been more ironic. It was the 25th anniversary of one of the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, the Exxon Valdez oil spill. On the same day in 1989, a 987-foot-long oil tanker ran aground on a reef in Prince William Sound, Alaska.

The Exxon Valdez spill held the dubious honor of the worst spill in U.S. history until BP's Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010. A mere ten days ago, BP was granted permission to seek new oil leases in the Gulf of Mexico.

The recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was opportune to reiterate what most of us already know: "The burning of coal, oil and gas is producing an increasing amount of heat-trapping temperatures and more extreme weather, and the problem is worsening.

What the IPCC discovered is that America's love affair with fossil fuels impacts, not only our waterways, but our air, our health, our food and even our human relationships. A most recent study from USC shows a link between autism and air pollution. Could there be a link to autism and Houston's reputation for poor air quality? According to Texas Children's Hospital it's unclear how many autism cases exist in Houston, but TCH says they care for about 1,000 kids a year with the disorder.

These incidents, along with the recent research, lead us to an inevitable conclusion.

 

Even with safeguards and laws in place, there's no control for simple human error.

KPRC in Houston is investigating the history of both the cargo ship and the barge operator involved in this accident. It appears that the Miss Susan, owned by Kirby Inland Marine, has been involved in 13 incidents over ten years, two of them involving collisions.

To make matters more complicated, the energy industry persists in its practice of exerting influence over the majority of lawmakers in Texas. The most egregious example is Legislator Tom Craddick of Midland. Energy-related PAC's have donated approximately $800,000 to his campaign coffers, as well, as getting his daughter, Christi, elected as Railroad Commissioner in 2012.

It's political heresy to suggest more stringent safety guidelines and monitoring in the state of Texas and most especially, the Houston area. The Texas energy boom, also known as the Texas Miracle, creates jobs; adding to the state's bottom line.

But here's the question: What good will jobs be, if our state is uninhabitable?

George Santayana's law of repetitive consequences is applicable not only to history, but to our environment as well. And Texas is not learning the lesson.


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