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Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Still Spilling After Nearly a Decade
The 2013 hurricane season is now upon us, and it's predicted to be a doozy this year. Which got us to thinking ... Remember that strange, persistent little oil slick about 12 miles offshore that SkyTruth discovered on satellite imagery during the BP oil spill in 2010, that was not related to BP's Deepwater Horizon disaster?
Oil slick at the Taylor Energy chronic leak site in Gulf of Mexico, June 5, 2010.
When we published this, an interesting story emerged: We had found a chronic, continuous oil spill in the Gulf emanating from oil wells that were serviced by a platform at this location. "Platform 23051," as we called it (because that's how it was identified by government data), no longer existed. It had been hit by a seafloor mudslide triggered by Hurricane Ivan way back in September 2004. That's right, six years earlier. And the damaged wells, now buried under the mud, were being slowly found, re-entered and plugged with cement by their owner—an LLC named Taylor Energy Company—using a leased drill rig called the Ocean Saratoga.
The rig disappeared for a while, then re-appeared in November 2010. It was still on the scene in March 2011, when Greenpeace flew over the site and took some photos. But we had indications from the Automatic Identification System vessel-tracking data that the rig had departed by June 2011. Periodic aerial overflights conducted by Gulf Monitoring Consortium and On Wings of Care, and radar satellite images acquired since June 2011, have shown no rig working to plug the wells since Ocean Saratoga's departure. The May 2013 status report from Diamond Offshore shows the rig is contracted to work elsewhere.
One thing, however, has remained constant at the site: It's still leaking oil and forming a persistent, miles-long slick that is routinely visible on satellite images. Occasionally it reaches out more than 20 miles from the source.
Taylor is required to report the size and location of their oil slick to the Coast Guard's National Response Center (NRC) on a daily basis. We've compiled all of their reports, as well as our own observations from overflights and satellite imagery. What we see on satellite images consistently contradicts Taylor's own reports, suggesting they are systematically and significantly underreporting the size of the slick. And our analysis shows that the total spill from the Taylor site may have exceeded 1 million gallons by February 2012.
In 2013, the satellite experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) began to report their analyses of the Taylor slick to the NRC as well (the first report we noticed from NOAA came on April 7). They, too, are reporting slicks significantly bigger than what Taylor is reporting. The latest example: On June 1 at 9:00 a.m., Taylor reported a slick 200 feet wide and 6.5 miles long. But NOAA reported a slick one mile wide and 20.2 miles long on a satellite image taken at 11:45 a.m., less than three hours later. NOAA's slick is more than 80 times bigger than what Taylor reported. And if we assume the slick is, on average, only 1/1000th of a millimeter (1 micron) thick, that amounts to at least 13,800 gallons of oil on the water. Yet the federal government has publicly stated that the leaking wells cumulatively spill only about 14 gallons per day.
We assume NOAA analysts were looking at this MODIS/Terra satellite image taken at 11:45 a.m. local time on June 1. We measure the observable slick to be 21.4 miles long, reaching a maximum width of just over 5,100 feet but tapering to less than 1,500 feet at each end. Still, it is significantly bigger than Taylor reported:
Detail from MODIS/Terra satellite image taken at 11:45 a.m. on June 1, showing slick (bright line) apparently emanating from site of chronic leak since 2004.
Measurement shows slick extends more than 21 miles from the source.
Something's fishy here. But no matter whose numbers you believe, one nagging question is begging to be answered: When are these wells going to be permanently plugged? As time goes by, it looks like the answer is: Never—we're going to let them leak until the reservoir effectively bleeds out. How can this be acceptable to federal government regulators and the politicians of Louisiana?
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‘Companies Should Not Be Allowed to Use Hazardous Ingredients in Products People Use’: Michelle Pfeiffer Speaks Up for Safer Cosmetics
The beauty products we put on our skin can have important consequences for our health. Just this March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that some Claire's cosmetics had tested positive for asbestos. But the FDA could only issue a warning, not a recall, because current law does not empower the agency to do so.
Michelle Pfeiffer wants to change that.
The actress and Environmental Working Group (EWG) board member was spotted on Capitol Hill Thursday lobbying lawmakers on behalf of a bill that would increase oversight of the cosmetics industry, The Washington Post reported.
By Julia Conley
Scientists at the United Nations' intergovernmental body focusing on biodiversity sounded alarms earlier this month with its report on the looming potential extinction of one million species — but few heard their calls, according to a German newspaper report.
The climate crisis is a major concern for American voters with nearly 40 percent reporting the issue will help determine how they cast their ballots in the upcoming 2020 presidential election, according to a report compiled by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.
Of more than 1,000 registered voters surveyed on global warming, climate and energy policies, as well as personal and collective action, 38 percent said that a candidate's position on climate change is "very important" when it comes to determining who will win their vote. Overall, democratic candidates are under more pressure to provide green solutions as part of their campaign promises with 64 percent of Democrat voters saying they prioritize the issue compared with just 34 percent of Independents and 12 percent of Republicans.
President Donald Trump has agreed to sign a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill that will help Americans still recovering from the flooding, hurricanes and wildfires that have devastated parts of the country in the past two years. Senate Republicans said they struck a deal with the president to approve the measure, despite the fact that it did not include the funding he wanted for the U.S.-Mexican border, CNN reported.
"The U.S. Senate has just approved a 19 Billion Dollar Disaster Relief Bill, with my total approval. Great!" the president tweeted Thursday.