A massive cleanup effort has been ordered on a quietly devastating oil spill that's been contaminating the Gulf of Mexico for 14 years. The Washington Post reports the US Coast Guard has mandated Taylor Energy "institute a … system to capture, contain, or remove oil" from the affected site off the Louisiana coast, infused with up to 30,000 gallons (about 700 barrels) of oil a day since Hurricane Ivan destroyed a company oil platform in 2004, per DOJ estimates. Contractors commissioned by Taylor Energy had previously said the oil spill was minimal, at the most around 2,000 gallons a day. If the company doesn't comply with the Coast Guard's new decree, it could be hit with a fine of up to $40,000 per day. To put it in context, the BP Deepwater Horizon spill dumped 4 million barrels of oil into the Gulf before it was capped after 87 days in July 2010; the Taylor spill could be at 3.5 million barrels.
The Taylor spill remained hidden from the public by both the company and the Coast Guard for six years after the hurricane. It was discovered only when nonprofits and environmental groups investigating the BP spill came upon oil slicks that didn't appear to be related to that particular incident. Taylor Energy—which contends the oil "sheens" on the surface of the water aren't from leaking wells, but from oil and gas floating up from the oil-heavy seafloor—says full containment of the leak could cost more than $1 billion, the Times-Picayune reports. Still, "the time to clean this up was 14 years ago," a rep for the Gulf Restoration Network says. "Taylor Energy has shown nothing but negligence all this time." (The largest tanker oil spill in three decades happened earlier this year.)