There’s been an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico for nearly 15 years and it’s on the verge of becoming one of the largest offshore disasters in US history.
The scariest part of all? Most people know nothing about it.
It’s common to think of oil spills as a rarity – many people think the last large oil spill was Deepwater Horizon. This was the world’s largest oil spill, but it certainly wasn’t the last.
In fact, the US Environmental Protection Agency estimates there are around 70 oil spills that occur each day.
That means, over the course of one year, approximately 1.3 million gallons of oil seep into our oceans. In years when a big oil spill occurs, that number can easily be multiplied by two.
Now, let’s take our attention back to the ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which is taking place around 12 miles off of Louisiana’s coast. According to The Washington Post, there are 300 to 700 barrels of oil spilling into the ocean here every day.
The spill was originally sparked in 2004 when Hurricane Ivan blew into town and damaged a Taylor Energy oil production platform.
The platform literally sank inside of a mudslide, and when it happened many of the wells were uncapped. As a result, the wells continued leaking oil into the ocean – just as they continue to do today, nearly 15 years later.
You’d think we’d have a solution by now, but we don’t.
Federal officials estimate that the spill will be resolved by the end of this century. If they are correct, this ongoing spill will trump the Deepwater Horizon spill as the largest on record.
You might be wondering why you haven’t heard about this until now if it’s such a big deal. If Taylor Energy had it their way, you never would have found out about it.
After all, oil spills deeply damage a company’s reputation and Taylor Energy has gone to great lengths to hide the spill from media outlets.
It wasn’t until 6 years after the oil spill first started that environmental watchdogs noticed the rainbow-colored oil slick waters. They were in the area surveying the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, which is located just a few miles away.
Taylor Energy did inform the U.S. Coast Guard National Response Center (NRC) that the spill was taking place.
The Coast Guard did not conduct their own survey of damages. Instead, they took Taylor Energy’s word that the spill was leaking around 1 to 55 barrels per day.
The Coast Guard reportedly monitored the spill for 6 years without fully informing the public of what was going on.
Then, in 2008, the Coast Guard reported to Taylor Energy that the spill is a “continuous, unsecured crude oil discharge” and poses “a significant threat to the environment.” This comes from a lawsuit between Taylor Energy and their insurer.
As a result, Taylor Energy made a deal with federal officials and a $666 million trust was set up to stop the oil spill.
The company used this money to dig the platform deck out of the ocean floor and plug about 1/3 of the leaking wells. They also constructed a shield to prevent the crude from rising.
Despite their efforts, oil continues spewing into the ocean.
In September of last year, the Justice Department released findings from a new report that revealed a much larger problem.
“There is abundant evidence that supports the fact that these reports from NRC are incorrect. My conclusion is that NRC reports are not reliable,” writes Oscar Garcia-Pineda, a geoscience consultant who specializes in remote sensing of oil spills.
Taylor Energy has been spending money like crazy trying to cover up the problem, as well as fight lawsuits. This has left the company near financial destruction.
Now, they strive to walk away from the problem they created while suing the Interior Department in Federal Court.
Taylor Energy is seeking “the return of about $450 million left in a trust established with the government to fund its work to recover part of the wreckage and locate wells buried under 100 feet of muck,” writes the Washington Post.
In September 2019, it will be exactly 15 years since the spill originated. Scientists still don’t know the total impact on marine life. Less important, but still noteworthy, is the total monetary value of oil lost at sea, which remains unknown.
Before we put time and money into uncovering these answers, environmentalists are advocating to put all funds towards stopping the spill.