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Damaged tanks at the ITC Deer Park facility on March 27, 2019 near La Porte, Texas.
Damaged tanks at the ITC Deer Park facility on March 27, 2019 near La Porte, Texas. (Credit: USCG)

Tank Fire Settlement to Fund Restoration Projects in Galveston Bay, Texas

April 2, 2024

On April 2nd, 2024, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a proposed settlement valued at approximately $6.65 million to compensate for natural resource injuries resulting from a tank fire in Deer Park, Texas. The event involved the release of thousands of barrels of hazardous substances and oil.

NOAA and co-trustees (see below) conducted a natural resource damage assessment to assess impacts from the spill on the public’s natural resources and determine the appropriate type and amount of restoration needed to offset those impacts. The settlement would resolve the liability of Intercontinental Terminals Company, LLC (ITC) for damages to ecological services, loss of recreational services, as well as the cost of assessing those injuries. 

The settlement is subject to a 30-day public comment period open until May 8th, 2024, and final court approval. It's available for viewing at the Department of Justice website. Please refer to the Federal Register notice for instructions on submitting public comments on the settlement. 

On March 17, 2019, a storage tank caught fire engulfing much of the Second 80’s tank battery at the ITC Deer Park facility in Deer Park, Texas. The large aboveground storage tanks contained petrochemical products and hazardous substances. The fire was initially extinguished on March 20, but reignited on March 22 and damaged a second containment wall of the tank facility. This caused a catastrophic breach, releasing hundreds of thousands of barrels of a mixture of hazardous substances consisting of petrochemicals from the storage tanks, fire water, and firefighting foams into the environment. Waterways affected included Tucker Bayou, Buffalo Bayou, San Jacinto River, Houston Ship Channel, Carpenters Bayou, Old River, Santa Anna Bayou and other surrounding water bodies. 

The Trustees determined that the hazardous substances released from ITC’s facility caused significant injuries to ecological resources, including marsh, riparian habitat areas, and birds. In addition, the hazardous chemicals released into air and water resulted in lost recreational opportunities in the Deer Park area, including temporary closures of multiple state, county, and city parks and the Lynchburg Ferry, as well as the cancelation of an annual historical reenactment at San Jacinto State Park.

The ITC Trustee Council will begin working to identify restoration projects that will improve habitat and recreational use of the injured natural resources in Galveston Bay. The proposed projects will be included in a Restoration Plan where the public will have an opportunity to provide input. 

Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA)

The Trustee Council has been conducting a NRDA for the ITC site. In conducting NRDA, Trustee agencies seek to restore injured natural resources, compensate for lost ecological services they would have provided had there not been contaminant releases, and compensate the public for lost or diminished human uses of natural resources as well. 

Natural resources include many parts of the natural environment including water, sediment, fish, birds, and mammals. Human uses include the loss or impairment of recreational opportunities, such as boating, fishing, and general shoreline use. The Trustees for this site include the United States Department of the Interior, through the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, NOAA, jointly with the State of Texas, appearing through the Office of the Texas Attorney General, on behalf of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and Texas General Land Office. 

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