Contrary to what you might have been taught, oil spills are actually quite common. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that there are about 70 oil spills each day. In one year, this amounts to approximately 1.3 million gallons (or 4.9 million liters) being spilled into U.S. waters. When a large oil spill occurs, that number can easily be doubled. As frustrating as this present reality is, there is a more substantial oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that has been ignored for 14 years. As a result, it now verges on becoming one of the worst offshore disasters in U.S. history.
The Washington Post reports that 12 miles off the Louisiana coast, between 300 and 700 barrels of oil are spewing into the ocean each day. The spill began in 2004 when an oil-production platform owned by Taylor Energy was damaged during Hurricane Ivan. Because the platform sank into a mudslide, many of the wells were left uncapped.
14 years later, the wells are still leaking oil into the Gulf of Mexico. To make matters worse, there is no fix in sight. In fact, federal officials estimate that the spill won’t be resolved until the end of this century. Because of this, the Taylor offshore spill is likely to overtake BP’s Deepwater Horizon incident as the largest-ever.
Why No One Has Heard About the Taylor Energy Spill
Oil spills are no joke, primarily because they damage a company’s reputation. It is for this reason that the Taylor Energy company went to great lengths to keep the spill a secret. Six years after the incident, however, environmental watchdog groups stumbled across the polluted waters with a rainbow-colored oil slick. They were monitoring the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster just a few miles away.
Reportedly, Taylor Energy did alert the U.S. Coast Guard National Response Center (NRC) about the spill. But, rather than conduct an investigation, the NRC used data from the company citing that the spill is leaking only one-to-55 barrels each day. A new analysis conducted by the Justice Department in September reveals the inaccuracy. “There is abundant evidence that supports the fact that these reports from NRC are incorrect,” wrote Oscar Garcia-Pineda, a geoscience consultant who specializes in remote sensing of oil spills. “My conclusion is that NRC reports are not reliable.”
The Coast Guard monitored the spill for more than half a decade without making the public fully away of the mess. Then, in July 2008, the Coast Guard informed Taylor Energy that the spill is “a continuous, unsecured crude oil discharge” that poses “a significant threat to the environment,” according to a lawsuit between Taylor Energy and its insurer.
Following this development, the company made a deal with federal officials and established a $666 million trust to stop the spill. The Washington Post reports, “Taylor Energy spent a fortune to pluck the deck of the platform from the ocean and plug about a third of the wells. It built a kind of shield to keep the crude from rising.” Despite the company’s many efforts, however, the oil kept leaking.
In the past decade, legal processes have devastated Taylor Energy. For this reason, the company now seeks to walk away from the problem and sue the Interior Department in federal court to seek “the return of about $450 million left in a trust established with the government to fund its work to recover part of the wreckage and locate wells buried under 100 feet of muck,” according to The Washington Post.
In the 14 years since the spill, government officials still don’t know the disaster’s full impact on marine life. There is no economic analysis outlining the value of the oil flowing into the sea or potential royalties lost to taxpayers. What activists are demanding is that the oil spill is first contained. Then, an in-depth analysis determining the effect the spill will have (and has had) on marshland and beaches needs to be conducted.