Rio Energy International, Gunvor USA and Texas Aromatics are suing Intercontinental Terminals Company (ITC) over the fire in March 2019 at ITC’s Deer Park site that closed the Houston Ship Channel, claiming economic losses.
The fire began on 17 March 2019 in tanks containing naphtha and toluene and spread to several other chemical storage tanks before it was extinguished just under four days later. No injuries were reported but thousands of barrels of oil and chemical products were spilled into the Tucker Bayou and the Houston Ship Channel, which closed between 22 March and 13 April 2019. The Houston Chronicle reports that the three companies, which transport crude and refined products through the Channel, allege in separate lawsuits that its closure cost them large amounts of lost profits through being unable to ship their products.
Rio Energy is claiming US$2.2m, Gunvor is claiming US$433,000 and Texas Aromatics is claiming US$381,000 under the Oil Pollution Act, which imposes liability when oil is discharged into navigable waters. The plaintiffs must first seek a claim through the administrative process, although ITC told the Chronicle that the Act does not apply to the Deer Park fire.
The three companies will be represented by David Baay from law firm Eversheds Sutherland.
He tells Tank Storage Magazine: ‘Eversheds Sutherland represents businesses who suffered economic losses in the form of lost profits and impaired earning capacity due to the ITC fire and oil spill. The spill resulted in the closure of the Houston Ship Channel, which severely disrupted commerce on this critical commercial waterway. This disruption extended not only to businesses physically adjacent to the channel, but also to all businesses that use the channel. The federal Oil Pollution Act (OPA) allows recovery of economic losses in these circumstances. While ITC argues that OPA does not apply, we are confident that the Court will reject that argument because the incident involved a substantial discharge of oil into the channel.’
The energy firms involved did not comment when contacted.