A dispute has been brewing between the U.S. Government and Taylor Energy over who’s going to pay for cleaning up what may become the worst oil spill in U.S. history.
The Longest Continuous Oil Leak in U.S. History
In 1984, Taylor Energy constructed the Taylor Energy Mississippi Canyon 20 site, which was located about 11 miles off the coast of Louisiana near the mouth of the Mississippi River. The site consisted of a fixed, 8-pile structure built in 490-foot deep water, with 28 wells reaching reservoirs located up to 2.08 miles beneath the sea floor. What has become known as the “Taylor oil spill” began in 2004 when submarine landsides generated by Hurricane Ivan capsized the rig. As a result of the damage, almost all the wells began to leak.
Since 2004, Taylor Energy has worked with the U.S. Coast Guard, spending over $400 million dollars to stop the leaks, which their experts claimed amounted to about 10 gallons a day. Although the leak was considered to be minor, conditions on the seafloor have made cleanup almost impossible. Containment domes were lowered into place in an attempt to trap and funnel the oil into a collection system. However, the soft, mushy sediment clogged the devices. Neither Taylor Energy nor the Coast Guard informed the public about the risks posed by the oil slick, a violation of the Clean Air Act.
The Leaks Could Persist for 100 Years
For years, no one paid much attention to the leak. It wasn’t until 2010 that observers monitoring the BP Deepwater Horizon spill began to take note of the persistent oil slick in the water at the Taylor site.
Recent studies have revealed the true severity of the leaks, determining that the amount of oil leaking out is closer to 4,200 gallons a day — quite a bit more than Taylor was claiming. The oil slick caused by the leaks is even visible from space. Experts fear the oil could continue to seep from the sunken wells for 100 years if the leaks aren’t contained.
The Government Wants Taylor to Pick Up the Bill for Cleanup Costs
Claiming that Taylor underestimated the amount of oil leaking from their site, the U.S. Coast Guard ordered Taylor to construct new containment domes and deploy them as soon as possible. When Taylor failed to do so, the Coast Guard hired another company to construct the domes — and is billing Taylor Energy for the costs.
This new arrangement isn’t sitting too well with Taylor, which is understandable, since the bill for cleanup efforts could approach a billion dollars. The New Orleans-based company halted its oil and gas operations in 2008 and has existed since then for the sole purpose of cleaning up the 2004 leak.
The company is fighting back in court, claiming that the Coast Guard is using junk science to justify activities that could destabilize the site. Not only is Taylor trying to reverse the order for the new containment dome, but they want to bar the federal government from doing any cleanup work on the site — basically asking the court to allow the spill to continue indefinitely.
It will be years before the full environmental and economic impact of the oil spill is known.
Has your business been negatively impacted due to an oil spill? The Lambert Firm is here to help. Our highly experienced team of oil spill lawyers has successfully represented hundreds of clients in cases involving oil spills – including a $330 million settlement for those affected by an oil spill at the Murphy Oil USA refinery in Chalmette, LA following Hurricane Katrina.