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.
The environmental catastrophe was brought to national attention last month when The Washington Post reported that Taylor's former production site is releasing up to 700 barrels (29,400 gallons) of oil per day into the gulf and could eventually surpass the Deepwater Horizon spill as the largest offshore disaster in U.S. history.
The massive spill and ongoing oil pollution in the gulf's waters was even the subject of a recent episode of the show "Patriot Act" hosted by Hasan Minhaj.
Check out this clip featuring SkyTruth’s work tracking the Taylor Energy spill and oil pollution throughout the Gul… https://t.co/2zB0zzudka— SkyTruth (@SkyTruth)1542060629.0
On Oct 23, a day after the Post's report was published, the U.S. Coast Guard ordered Taylor to stop the leak, WWL-TV New Orleans was first to report. Taylor was ordered to "institute a … system to capture, contain, or remove oil" or face the $40,000-per-day penalty, according to details of the order published by The Washington Post on Tuesday.
The spill stems from a Taylor-owned production platform located 12 miles off the coast of Louisiana that was toppled by an underwater mudslide caused by Hurricane Ivan in 2004.
Left unchecked, the discharge could continue for another 100 years or more until the oil in the underground reservoir is depleted, a government agency warns.
So far, the Taylor site has spewed an estimated 1.5 million barrels to 3.5 million barrels of oil into gulf waters, which could surpass the 4 million barrels released from the BP blowout, the Post reported.
After 14 years, the @USCG says an ongoing #oilspill in the #GulfofMexico needs to be contained: “The worst-case est… https://t.co/OXqLbHwzPp— Rocky Kistner (@Rocky Kistner)1542733953.0
Taylor balked at the government's order. "The inflated volumes are completely inconsistent with the scientific record built over a decade by the world's leading scientists, including those regularly relied upon by the government," a company spokesperson told the Post.
The energy firm once claimed the leak was as little as 2 gallons of oil per day until a 2015 Associated Press investigation revealed evidence that the leak was much worse than the company publicly reported.
The Coast Guard told Taylor that "the worst-case estimate of the daily volume of release far exceeds previous estimates and is in the order of hundreds of barrels per day."
Dustin Renaud, communications director for the Gulf Restoration Network, told NOLA.com | Times-Picayune that the government order is long overdue.
"The time to clean this up was 14 years ago," he said. "Taylor Energy has shown nothing but negligence all this time."
BREAKING: Coast Guard ordered Taylor Energy to create and deploy an oil containment device over their 14 year old o… https://t.co/S2YhjGlJme— Healthy Gulf (@Healthy Gulf)1542742530.0
Taylor and federal officials have established a $666 million trust to pay for the leak response. Although the company has spent hundreds of millions trying to halt the flow, it has proven difficult to cap the affected wells that are deep underwater and buried beneath 100 feet of mud.
Taylor has plugged only nine of the 28 wells at its platform, the Post reported.
Meanwhile, Taylor has mostly ceased to exist as a company. President William Pecue wants to recover $450 million of the trust, arguing the spill cannot be contained.
"I can affirmatively say that we do believe this was an act of God under the legal definition," Pecue said in 2016.
The Largest U.S. #Oil Spill You've Probably Never Heard of Is Still Leaking After 14 Years @skytruth… https://t.co/2zcNw2GmUG— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1540237214.0
Correction: Since the publication of this post, EcoWatch has learned that WWL-TV New Orleans' David Hammer was the first to report news of the U.S. Coast Guard's order. The article has been updated to include this information.
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Cages line the Malang bird and animal market on Java in 2016. Andrea Kirkby / CC BY-SA 2.0
A kingfisher, looking a little worse for wear, in the Malang bird and animal market in 2016. Andrea Kirkby / CC BY-SA 2.0
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By Julián García Walther
One morning in January, I found myself 30 feet up a tall metal pole, carrying 66 pounds of aluminum antennas and thick weatherproofed cabling. From this vantage point, I could clearly see the entire Punta Banda Estuary in northwestern Mexico. As I looked through my binoculars, I observed the estuary's sandy bar and extensive mudflats packed with thousands of migratory shorebirds frenetically pecking the mud for food.
There are currently few Motus stations in Mexico, leading to a large information gap. Julián García Walther / CC BY-ND
Red knots and many other shorebirds travel thousands of miles from breeding grounds in the Arctic (left) to nonbreeding grounds in Latin America (right). Julián García Walther / CC BY-ND
Motus stations require a high vantage point that overlooks estuaries. Julián García Walther / CC BY-ND
Any bird with a transmitter will be picked up if it flies within 12 miles (20 kilometers) of a Motus station. Julián García Walther / CC BY-ND<h2>Tagging Birds</h2><p>The stations alone can't detect these animals. The final step, which will happen in the coming months, is to catch birds and tag them. To do this, our team will set up a soft, spring-loaded net called a whoosh net in sandy areas where the red knots rest above the high-tide line. When birds walk past the net, the crew leader will release the trigger, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vwMiA2iqVc0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">safely trapping the birds with the net</a>.</p>
WhooshNetCapture.MTS<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="6440038cdc58961906f5fa164b457688"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/vwMiA2iqVc0?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
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<div id="25965" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="6116a1c2b1b913ad51c3ea576f2e196c"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1366827205427425289" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">BREAKING: Rep @FrankPallone just released his CLEAN Future Act — which he claims to be an ambitious bill to combat… https://t.co/M7nR0es196</div> — Friends of the Earth (Action) (@Friends of the Earth (Action))<a href="https://twitter.com/foe_us/statuses/1366827205427425289">1614711974.0</a></blockquote></div>
<div id="189f0" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="aa31bacec80d88b49730e8591de5d26d"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1366863402912657416" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">The CLEAN Future Act "fails to grasp the fundamental truth of fighting climate change: We must stop extracting and… https://t.co/yREn6Qx9tn</div> — Food & Water Watch (@Food & Water Watch)<a href="https://twitter.com/foodandwater/statuses/1366863402912657416">1614720605.0</a></blockquote></div>
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