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?
- Israeli Oil Spill Is a 'Severe Ecological Disaster' - EcoWatch ›
- Endangered Sea Turtles Recovering After 'Cold Stunning' Event ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
As the weather grows more severe, and its damages more expensive and fatal, current weather predictions fall short in providing reliable information on Earth's rapidly changing systems.
- Are New Extreme Global Warming Projections Correct? - EcoWatch ›
- Are We Really Past the Point of No Return on Climate? Scientists ... ›
By Brett Wilkins
Accusing California regulators of "reckless disregard" for public "health and safety," the environmental advocacy group Center for Biological Diversity on Wednesday sued the administration of Gov. Gavin Newsom for approving thousands of oil and gas drilling and fracking projects without the required environmental review.
- New Bill Seeks to Ban Fracking in California - EcoWatch ›
- Fracking Likely Triggered Earthquakes in California a Few Miles ... ›
- California Won't Buy From Automakers 'on the Wrong Side of History ... ›
- Chevron Has Spilled 800,000 Gallons of Crude Oil and Water Into a ... ›
By Kate Whiting
From Greta Thunberg to Sir David Attenborough, the headline-grabbing climate change activists and environmentalists of today are predominantly white. But like many areas of society, those whose voices are heard most often are not necessarily representative of the whole.
1. Wangari Maathai<p>In 2004, Professor Maathai made history as the <a href="https://www.nobelpeaceprize.org/Prize-winners/Prizewinner-documentation/Wangari-Maathai" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">first African woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize</a> for her dedication to sustainable development, democracy and peace. She started the <a href="http://www.greenbeltmovement.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Green Belt Movement</a>, a community-based tree planting initiative that aims to reduce poverty and encourage conservation, in 1977. More than 51 million trees have been planted helping build climate resilience and empower communities, especially women and girls. Her environmental work is celebrated every year on <a href="http://www.greenbeltmovement.org/node/955" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Wangari Maathai Day on 3 March</a>.</p>
2. Robert Bullard<p>Known as the 'father of environmental justice,' Dr Bullard has <a href="https://www.unep.org/championsofearth/laureates/2020/robert-bullard" target="_blank">campaigned against harmful waste</a> being dumped in predominantly Black neighborhoods in the southern states of the U.S. since the 1970s. His first book, Dumping in Dixie, highlighted the link between systemic racism and environmental oppression, showing how the descendants of slaves were exposed to higher-than-average levels of pollutants. In 1994, his work led to the signing of the <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/experts/albert-huang/20th-anniversary-president-clintons-executive-order-12898-environmental-justice" target="_blank">Executive Order on Environmental Justice</a>, which the <a href="https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/01/27/executive-order-on-tackling-the-climate-crisis-at-home-and-abroad/" target="_blank">Biden administration is building on</a>.<br></p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="7983f54726debdd824f97f9ad3bdbb87"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/T_VjSGk8s18?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Pollution has a race problem. Elizabethwarren.com
3. John Francis<p>Helping the clean-up operation after an oil spill in San Francisco Bay in January 1971 inspired Francis to <a href="https://planetwalk.org/about-john/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stop taking motorized transport</a>. Instead, for 22 years, he walked everywhere. He also took a vow of silence that lasted 17 years, so he could listen to others. He has walked the width of the U.S. and sailed and walked through South America, earning the nickname "Planetwalker," and raising awareness of how interconnected people are with the environment.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="09b968e0e9964e31406954dcea45981d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/vgQjL23_FoU?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
4. Dr. Warren Washington<p>A meteorology and climate pioneer, Dr. Washington was one of the first people to develop atmospheric computer models in the 1960s, which have helped scientists understand climate change. These models now also incorporate the oceans and sea ice, surface water and vegetation. In 2007, the <a href="https://www.cgd.ucar.edu/pcm/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Parallel Climate Model (PCM)</a> and <a href="https://www.cesm.ucar.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Community Earth System Model (CESM)</a>, earned Dr. Washington and his colleagues the <a href="https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/peace/2007/summary/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Nobel Peace Prize</a>, as part of the <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change</a>.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="09fbf6dc37f275f438a0d53ec0fe1874"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/bvJ4jTy2mTk?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
5. Angelou Ezeilo<p>Huge trees and hikes to pick berries during her childhood in upstate New York inspired Ezeilo to become an environmentalist and set up the <a href="https://gyfoundation.org/staff/Angelou-Ezeilo" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Greening Youth Foundation</a>, to educate future generations about the importance of preservation. Through its schools program and Youth Conservation Corps, the social enterprise provides access to nature to disadvantaged children and young people in the U.S. and West Africa. In 2019, Ezeilo published her book <em>Engage, Connect, Protect: Empowering Diverse Youth as Environmental Leaders</em>, co-written by her Pulitzer Prize-winning brother Nick Chiles.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ce4547d4e5c0b9ad2927f19fd75bf4ab"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/YojKMfUvJMs?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
- Youth Climate Activists Want a Role in Biden's White House ... ›
- As Protests Rage, Climate Activists Embrace Racial Justice ... ›
- The Power of Inclusive, Intergenerational Climate Activism - EcoWatch ›