Sunday, March 2, 2008

San Francisco to Receive Spill Money

This article announces that the City of San Francisco will receive $2 million for damages caused by a 54,000 gallon oil spill in the San Francisco Bay. The oil spill occurred in early November, 2007, when a cargo ship struck a tower supporting the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Another article describing the spill can be found at

The ship apparently crashed due to decreased visibility on a very foggy morning. There was no structural damage to the bridge, but one can only imagine the damage caused by the 54,000 gallons of oil spreading throughout the San Francisco Bay. A number of beaches were closed, "thousands of birds died," and there was a significant delay to California's crabbing season.

The money is said to compensate for the cleanup costs that the city has already accumulated, beginning immediately after the spill. Hudson Marine Management Services acted on behalf of Regal Stone Ltd., the ship's owner, and came to this agreement with San Francisco city attorney, Dennis Herrera. They have referred to the $2 million as an "initial payment" and not a final settlement.

Of course, it is good to see that someone is taking responsibility for the spill and that San Fransisco will receive this money to compensate for the money they have already spent on repairs. Though a dollar amount was not mentioned for the final settlement, it seems that both parties are aware of the great impact that the spill has caused and will come up with a reasonable amount. However, I do wonder, "Can you put a monetary value on the impact of this spill?" Or any spill for that matter. It is just horrible that these types of things occur, and the environmental effects are almost irreversible. How do they come up with an "amount" for these types of settlements? I would be interested to know. Do they plan to somehow replenish the bay wildlife that was effected by the spill? Is there any way to do so? And for the ship owner to say the accident was caused by reduced visibility on a foggy morning...I think I am pretty safe to assume that every morning on the San Francisco Bay is pretty foggy. I've been there; it looked pretty foggy to me.

Again, it is good to see that someone has taken responsibility but I don't think that money will fix all of the problems caused by this spill. It simple cannot. As an industry, I think we really need to invest in the prevention of these types of things. Now I know we have to transport oil in and out of thousands (if not more) of bays around the world, but are there improvements we could make on these cargo ships so that if they crashed or scrapped or whatever, the oil inside them would not just gush out into the ocean?

For now, I guess San Francisco will use the money for cleanup costs and when the rest of the settlement comes I am sure they will have a number of things they need to spend it on. I just think that you cannot simply pay for the consequences of an oil spill, some of the effects are "priceless."



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