Criminal Charges Filed as New Zealand Oil Spill Continues to Worsen

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The oil spill off the New Zealand coast, already the country's worst environmental disaster in decades, continues to worsen. Severe weather has been rocking the Rena, knocking its cargo into the sea. The gap in its hull is widening, and officials worry that it's not a matter of if the ship will break in two, but when.

The captain and second officer of the Rena are now facing criminal charges of operating a vessel in a manner causing unnecessary danger or risk, reported the New Zealand Herald.So far, 70 containers have tumbled off the ship into the water, releasing cargo like freeze dried coffee and beef into the ocean. The containers still on the ship are unstable, so salvage workers cannot safely recover the 1,600 tons or so of oil in the Rena's fuel tanks.

The worst is yet to come: officials believe that the ship will soon break in two, spilling all that oil at once. The result would be an undeniable environmental catastrophe.

Are We Blaming the Right People?

The charges faced by the Rena's captain and second officer carry a $10,000 maximum fine, or up to a year in prison. But whether or not they acted recklessly, it's not fair to pin the weight of an environmental disaster on two men guilty only of doing their job poorly. Responsibility must be laid at the door of the oil industry that peddles a substance that is bad for the environment, whether it spills into the ocean or reaches consumers and becomes fumes in our air.

And why is the oil industry thriving? Because too many of us, our companies and governments, support it at every turn.

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More on this oil spill:
Oil Spill Will Get "Significantly Worse" Now New Zealand's Biggest Environmental Disaster In Decades
New Zealand Oil Spill Worsens as Oil Hits Shore, Threatens Local Wildlife

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