In December we reported how BP wasn’t the only driller fouling the Gulf of Mexico with oil; 10 miles off the Louisiana coast and just a few miles away from BP’s blown-out Macondo well, which flooded the Gulf with 206 million gallons of oil in 2010, sits an offshore platform and 28 oil wells belonging to Taylor Energy Company of New Orleans that may have been leaking hundreds of gallons of oil everyday for seven years. Now an environmental watchdog group hopes a lawsuit it filed against Taylor Energy on Thursday will help put an end to the spill.
New York-based Waterkeeper Alliance says Taylor Energy’s wells have been leaking oil since Hurricane Ivan swept through the Gulf in 2004, which triggered an underwater mudslide. Since that time, however, both Taylor Energy and the Federal government have refused to answer even the most basic questions about what is being done to stop the ongoing oil spill.
“This spill is in relatively shallow water,” Justin Bloom, a regional director for the group, told the Associated Press. “If it takes more than seven years to contain a spill like this in a relatively accessible environment, what would happen in a dangerous and inaccessible deepwater environment?”
The lawsuit accuses Taylor energy of violating the Clean Water Act and Resource Conservation Recovery Act and seeks civil penalties of up to $37,500 per day, a figure partially based on an estimated flow rate of 100-400 gallons per day. An analysis of satellite images showing the oil slick helped researchers determine how much oil was leaking from the Taylor Energy wells.
The U.S. Coast Guard rejects that estimate, claiming three containment domes were placed at the site to capture the leaking oil, which the Coast Guard says amounts to just 7.5 gallons per day and not enough to warrant further recovery operations.
But the Coast Guard hasn’t been the most trustworthy source for oil spill estimates, as its calculations throughout the BP oil spill disaster have shown. Shortly after the Deepwater Horizon exploded and sank into the Gulf, the Coast Guard announced that no oil was leaking from the well. When a massive oil slick formed on the surface, the Coast Guard upped its flow-rate estimates to 42,000 gallons per day but would not say how it came up with that number.
Government estimates continued to climb as physical evidence and estimates from independent analysts mounted. In the end, federal officials admitted 206 million gallons of oil gushed from BP’s Macondo well over 85 days, which amounts to an average of 2.4 million gallons per day.