TEXAS CITY, Texas (AP) - WHAT HAPPENED?
The Coast Guard says a barge carrying about 900,000 gallons of heavy oil collided with a ship Saturday in the Houston Ship Channel, spilling as much as 168,000 gallons into one of the world’s busiest waterways. Oil has been detected 12 miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico.
HOW ARE AUTHORITIES RESPONDING?
The barge and the unaffected oil tanks have been moved. The Coast Guard has shut down the channel while cleanup continues, forcing more than 80 ships to wait to enter or leave the bay. Twenty-four vessels are working to skim the oil, and containment booms have been deployed. Authorities say part of the channel could be opened sometime Monday.
WHAT ARE THE ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS?
Authorities and environmental groups are still assessing how the oil spill has affected the environment and wildlife. The channel in Texas City has important shorebird habitat on both sides, and tens of thousands of wintering birds are still in the area. Richard Gibbons of the Houston Audubon Society says at least 50 birds of six species have needed treatment due to the oil. The Texas General Land Office has also deployed a bird-rehabilitation trailer in the area.
WHAT IS THE ECONOMIC IMPACT?
A prolonged closure of the ship channel could push up fuel prices briefly, said Jim Ritterbusch, president of energy consultancy Jim Ritterbusch and Associates in Chicago. If the bottleneck eases soon, fuel prices probably won’t change much.
WHO’S AT FAULT?
The Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating. Coast Guard Capt. Brian Penoyer says the investigation will take a while because of the complexity of the vessels and the busy channel.
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