A relatively small but seemingly never-ending, 14-year oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is threatening to overtake the Deepwater Horizon disaster as the worst in U.S. history, and there appears to be no end to the incident in sight.
“Between 300 and 700 barrels of oil per day have been spewing from a site 12 miles off the Louisiana coast since 2004, when an oil production platform owned by Taylor Energy sank in a mudslide triggered by Hurricane Ivan,” the Washington Post reports. “Many of the wells have not been capped, and federal officials estimate that the spill could continue through this century.”
And yet, “as oil continues to spoil the Gulf,” the Post adds, “the Trump administration is proposing the largest expansion of leases for the oil and gas industry, with the potential to open nearly the entire outer continental shelf to offshore drilling. That includes the Atlantic coast, where drilling hasn’t happened in more than a half century, and where hurricanes hit with double the regularity of the Gulf.”
For years, Taylor Energy sought to protect its reputation and hold onto proprietary information about its operations by keeping the spill unknown outside Louisiana, the Post states, citing a lawsuit that finally brought the company’s cleanup plan into the public eye. “The spill was hidden for six years before environmental watchdog groups stumbled on oil slicks while monitoring the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster a few miles north of the Taylor site in 2010.” Although the U.S. Department of the Interior has fought to prevent the company from walking away from the spill, Taylor has contended there’s no proof its wells are leaking.
But “last month, the Justice Department submitted an independent analysis showing that the spill was much larger than the one to 55 barrels per day the U.S. Coast Guard National Response Center (NRC) claimed, using data supplied by the oil company,” the Post states.
Overall, an average of 330,000 gallons (more than 1.1 million litres) of oil spill from Louisiana’s offshore platforms and onshore oil tanks each year. And “in an era of climate change and warmer open waters, the storms are becoming more frequent and violent,” the Post notes. “Starting with Ivan in 2004, several hurricanes battered or destroyed more than 150 platforms in just four years.”
“I don’t think people know that we have this ocean in the United States that’s filled with industry,” Gulf Restoration Network ecologist Scott Eustis told reporter Darryl Fears.