BordersThe Transboundary Agreement is not just about the cost of gas and the environment

By Lee Maril

Published 22 March 2012

The Transboundary Agreement, which the United States and Mexico reached on 20 February, regulates oil and gas development in the Gulf of Mexico; before the agreement is ratified, there is a need to address serious security issues related to building more oil rigs in the Gulf – for example, the fact that the Mexican government cannot control its powerful criminal organizations, and that it will be easy for terrorists in a small boat to overrun one of these deepwater rigs

Not so long time ago when gas at the pump was less than a dollar, a forgotten offshore oilrig called Ixtoc I sprang a big leak in Mexico.  The obscure rig lay in the southern quadrant of the Gulf of Mexico hundreds of miles from American waters and coastline.  Approximately 150 million gallons of crude oil, a modest amount by comparison to the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, eventually was dumped into Mexico’s Bay of Campeche.  It soon began, pushed by wind, weather, and currents, to make it’s way northward towards the Texas coast. 

All the scientific experts in 1979 told the residents of the Gulf coast not to worry about the biggest oil spill in the world.  There was no way, they said, that the Ixtoc I spill would ever reach our coastline.  But during the months of June and July the biggest oil spill in the world did not listen to our experts as it continued its sluggish march northward towards Brownsville, Corpus Christi, Galveston, Houston, and the 100 resort and fishing communities that lie between these cities. 

Ixtoc 1 was owned by Sedco, a drilling company at the time run by Texas Governor Bill Clements.  Sedco leased the off shore well to Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex.  Governor Clements himself was among all those who repeatedly assured the residents of the Texas coast that there was nothing to fear from Ixtoc 1. But as the national media began to broadcast aerial photos of twenty-mile long oil slicks headed directly towards South Padre Island-the popular southernmost portion of barrier islands that extend 300 miles to Houston-the local citizenry became first dubious, then gravely concerned.

The slimy goo hit South Padre Island the first week of August, 1979.  Tourists were not blind to the disaster; they voted by the tens of thousands to stay away from the stinking quagmire.  The only humans on the beach were work crews with mops, shovels, and buckets struggling to clean up the spill which stretched for miles and miles under a cruel summer sun.  Coast Guard sub-contractors ran hither and yon, first claiming immediate victory, then retreating after the tide brought in the next round of toxic sludge.  Does this sound familiar?

Occasionally sightseers were told to stand back out of their way crews could do their work and, more importantly, not record the extent of the disaster.  Since I lived in Brownsville and had recently completed a major study