This Quiet Oil Spill May Become Biggest Ever in US

A 14-year-old continuous leak in Gulf could overtake Deepwater Horizon
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 22, 2018 8:26 AM CDT
Updated Oct 27, 2018 12:50 PM CDT
This 2015 aerial file photo shows an oil sheen drifting from the site of the former Taylor Energy oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Louisiana.   (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
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(Newser) – You've heard of the Deepwater Horizon and the Exxon Valdez oil spills. But how about a 2004 spill involving Taylor Energy? As it turns out, the latter has been quietly leaking oil off the coast of Louisiana so steadily for 14 years—with no end in sight—that it threatens to overtake the Deepwater Horizon spill as the biggest offshore disaster in US history, reports the Washington Post. The federal government estimates 10,000 to 30,000 gallons of oil per day is leaking into the Gulf of Mexico from the spill, which began when Hurricane Ivan toppled an oil platform owned by Taylor about 12 miles off the coast in 2004, per the AP. The company worked quietly with the federal government on a containment plan, and the spill didn't become known to the public until environmental groups noticed the slicks while trying to get a handle on the Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010.

As the Post explains, part of the problem is that Hurricane Ivan so thoroughly upended the ocean floor in that area that it's proven extremely difficult to find and cap the affected wells. Taylor disputes the size of the leak and is currently engaged in a legal fight with the Interior Department over cleanup costs. At one point, Taylor estimated that two to three gallons were leaking a day, while the Coast Guard in 2015 put the figure at 16,000 gallons per day. However, the Coast Guard significantly raised its estimate in a court filing last month, suggesting that the leak was actually getting worse. What's more, federal officials say it could continue through this century. (The White House is loosening restrictions on offshore drilling.)

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