The BP oil spill happened suddenly, and its devastation was palpable: quickly spreading sheens of toxic oil that poisoned birds, fish and marine mammals, and trashed Gulf Coast beaches.
But the BP spill wasn’t the first major oil spill to poison the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. In fact, a slower but no less deadly spill started years earlier and is still flowing today, according to an ongoing investigation by Waterkeeper Alliance.
Aided by satellite imagery and research conducted by SkyTruth and aerial observation by SouthWings, the Waterkeeper Alliance and its local Waterkeeper organizations learned that an offshore platform and 28 wells belonging to Taylor Energy Company LLC have been quietly leaking oil into the Gulf for years.
Waterkeeper Alliance and several Gulf Coast Waterkeeper organizations filed suit against Taylor Energy under the citizen suit provisions of the Clean Water Act and Resource Conservation Recovery Act in Federal Court on Thursday.
“The plaintiffs filed suit to stop the spill and lift the veil of secrecy surrounding Taylor Oil’s seven-year long response and recovery operation,” explained Marc Yaggi, Executive Director of Waterkeeper Alliance. “Neither the government nor Taylor will answer basic questions related to the spill response, citing privacy concerns.”
The spill, located approximately 11 miles off the coast of Louisiana, started after an undersea landslide during the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan in 2004. Waterkeeper estimates that hundreds of gallons of oil have leaked from the site each day for the last seven years.
“The Taylor Oil spill is emblematic of a broken system, where oil production is prioritized over concerns for human health and the environment,” said Justin Bloom, Eastern Regional Director of Waterkeeper Alliance. “Nearly two years after the BP Deepwater Horizon Spill, none of the comprehensive reforms recommended by the National Oil Spill Commission have been enacted and Congress has yet to pass a single law to better protect workers, the environment or coastal communities.”
Uncovering the ongoing Taylor Energy spill illuminates the danger of President Obama’s recent call for increased offshore drilling on 38 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico as well as the Arctic. The Taylor spill is in relatively shallow and accessible waters compared to the deepwater environments on which Big Oil has set its sights, yet it’s continued unchecked for years.
Waterkeeper and its allies allege that oil exploration and extraction technology has dramatically outpaced the development of safety and recovery technology and it appears that the current regulatory regime is incapable of protecting us from a runaway industry.
Image: Cover photo from the Gulf Monitoring Consortium Report