Environmental Protection

Captain Sues Coast Guard to get License Back after Causing Oil Spill

A California captain is suing the Coast Guard to get his license back after causing San Francisco Bay's worst spill oil since 1988.

A cargo ship captain is suing the Coast Guard in effort to have his mariner’s license reinstated after he lost it when he crashed his ship in the San Francisco Bay, causing the area's worst oil spill in two decades, Paul Rogers reported in the San Jose Mercury News. The 2007 spill occurred when Capt. John Cota’s ship collided with a tower of the Bay Bridge.

After pleading guilty to water pollution violations, Cota, 65, served 10 months in prison. Investigators found him to be responsible for the spill based on conclusions that he was traveling too fast in fog, was impaired by prescription pills, and ignored safety standards. The collision caused oil to spread over 69 miles of shore and killed more than 6,800 birds.

Following the accident, Cota's merchant marine license was revoked by the Coast Guard. When Cota filed for license renewal, he was denied. Now, he is suing for the right to renew his license, and if he wins the case, Cota could be back to his job captaining a ship, and even possibly working in the Bay Area where the accident occurred.

While Cota wants his commercial mariner's license back, this was not the only source of his income. Cota also has a pilot's license. A pilot can earn as much as $451,000 a year. Cota has since retired from his pilot's position with a pension of $228,864 a year.

The National Transportation Safety Board states that Cota has a history with alcohol and prescription pills, with a previous drunk driving conviction.

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