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Energy
Taylor Energy spill seen from space in 2017. SkyTruth

Clean Up 14-Year Oil Spill or Face $40K Daily Fine, Feds Tell Taylor Energy

The U.S. Coast Guard has ordered Taylor Energy Co. to clean and contain a 14-year chronic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico or face a fine of $40,000 a day.

Environmentalists had warned about the unrelenting leak for years after the Gulf Restoration Network and the watchdog group SkyTruth discovered oil slicks via satellite imagery while investigating the BP Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010.

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The Great Australian Bight is home to one of only two southern right whale calving grounds in the world. Greenpeace / Jaimen Hudson

An Oil Spill in the Great Australian Bight Could Be Twice as Bad as Deepwater Horizon

Equinor, Norway's state oil company formerly known as Statoil, has faced criticism from environmentalists over its plans to drill the Great Australian Bight off the country's southern coast. A potential spill in the area would threaten the ecosystem and endanger the largest breeding populations of endangered southern right whales in the world.

Such fears are now confirmed if a blowout should actually occur, according to a leaked draft Oil Pollution Emergency Plan authored by Equinor and obtained by Greenpeace's Australia Pacific branch.

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Oceans
An oil-stained beach in Florida following the Deepwater Horizon spill. Geoff Livingston / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

Disastrous BP Oil Spill 'Flattened' Microbe Biodiversity in Gulf

Last week, President Donald Trump signed an executive order striking a conservation-minded oceans policy that former President Barack Obama signed in the wake of the devastating Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.

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Politics
The Q4000 at the Deepwater Horizon accident site. James Davidson / CC BY-NC 2.0

Deepwater Horizon Anniversary: Trump Administration Ignores Advice on Preventing Explosions, Injuries, Blowouts

The Trump administration is ignoring advice from the bipartisan commission that investigated the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster as officials move to repeal offshore drilling safety regulations adopted in its aftermath.

Friday is the eighth anniversary of the explosion that killed 11 oil workers and caused more than 210 million gallons of oil to flow uncontrolled into the Gulf of Mexico for more than three months, killing thousands of marine mammals and birds.

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Energy
The damaged oil platform in Lake Pontchartrain, LA after the Oct. 15 explosion. U.S. Coast Guard

Gulf Oil Spill Off Louisiana Coast Is 2x Bigger Than Original Estimate

LLOG Exploration Company, LLC drastically underestimated the amount of oil its fractured pipeline spilled into the Gulf of Mexico last week.

The oil and gas operator first estimated that it spewed about 340,000 gallons of oil. Now, according to a Coast Guard announcement, the company is now reporting a discharge of 672,000 gallons—about two times the initial estimate.

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Oil on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. Julie Dermansky

Nearly 400,000 Gallons of Oil Spew Into Gulf of Mexico, Could Be Largest Spill Since Deepwater Horizon

Last week, a pipe owned by offshore oil and gas operator LLOG Exploration Company, LLC spilled up to 393,000 gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, reminding many observers of the Deepwater Horizon explosion seven years ago that spewed approximately 210 million gallons of crude into familiar territory.

Now, a report from Bloomberg suggests that the LLOG spill could be the largest in the U.S. since the 2010 BP blowout, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE).

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Animals
BP oil spill led to baby dolphin deaths and diseases along the Gulf Coast. Truth Wire

Oil Spills Can Disrupt Entire Aquatic Food Web, New Study Shows

From dead fish to beaches covered in sludge, the immediate damage from an oil spill is easy to see.

But a new study, published this week in the journal Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology (AECT), found that the damage caused by these spills are much wider in scope and can indirectly disrupt the entire aquatic food web.

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BP oil spill led to baby dolphin deaths and diseases along the Gulf Coast. Truth Wire

Rush Limbaugh Claims BP Oil Spill Didn't Harm Environment

BP's 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion that claimed the lives of 11 men, killed numerous dolphins and other marine life, and released millions of barrels of oil and natural gas into the Gulf of Mexico was an environmental disaster. The catastrophe has left far-reaching impacts on the region's economy and ecosystems that continue to this day. This is fact.

But leave it to Rush Limbaugh to alternative fact the BP oil spill, claiming on his radio show this week that it "didn't do any damage" to the environment.

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Energy

Natural Gas Rig Fire in the Gulf, Another Wakeup Call

National Wildlife Federation

By Lacey McCormick

Late last night, a natural gas drilling rig known as Hercules 265 exploded. The rig has now partially collapsed and is burning out of control, too dangerous for firefighters to approach.

This incident begs the question: if the safety recommendations of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill had been implemented swiftly, would this accident have occurred at all?

It is particularly notable that the blowout preventer appears not to have worked in this instance, just as is it didn’t on the Deepwater Horizon. Whatever the facts of this case turn out to be, accidents like this one are part of a long industry pattern that places profit ahead of communities, local economies and the environment.

There are still many unknowns. For example, we don’t know how much gas is being released or if the well is releasing gas below the surface as well as above.

On Wings of Truth flew over the runaway well yesterday, before the fire, and made this video available:

While natural gas is less toxic than crude oil, when released from a well it can contain smaller quantities of volatile petroleum condensates, like kerosene and gasoline. And natural gas alone can have significant impacts on marine species, particularly when the water is warm. Dr. Irene Novaczek writes:

The gas can rapidly penetrate the bodies of fish, doing direct damage to gills, skin, chemoreceptors and eyes, and filling up the gas bladder, making the fish unable to control its buoyancy. … Shellfish are also killed by exposure to gas. Zooplankton and phytoplankton can tolerate higher concentrations of gas than fish or shellfish can (i.e. they die at two–five mg/l).

If all the hydrocarbons are being released above the surface of the Gulf, then the immediate impacts to marine wildlife would be lessened, as the Associated Press reports:

"Gas being discharged now would not necessarily affect the water system of the Gulf proper,” said Donald Boesch, president of the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science and a member of the federal panel that investigated the BP oil spill. That’s because it’s likely most of the gas is venting directly into the atmosphere given the fire and shallow depth of the well, he said.

Houston-based Walter Oil & Gas Corp is now looking to drill a relief well to stop the flow of gas, an operation that could take days or even weeks. Thankfully, all 44 workers on board the rig were evacuated safely and there does not appear to be any real potential for a disaster on the scale of the Deepwater Horizon.

Whatever ultimately happens with the Hercules 256, it’s clear that it is long past time for Congress and the Obama Administration to reform oil and gas leasing practices and permitting requirements to better safeguard wildlife and the environment.

This not the first wake-up call we have had in the Gulf. Let’s hope our nation’s leaders don’t hit the snooze button this time—as they have so many times in the past.

Visit EcoWatch’s BIODIVERSITY and GULF OIL SPILL pages for more related news on this topic.

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