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In 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil tragedy caught the attention of the US. for months. 11 lives were lost and the communities around the Gulf of Mexico stopped under hundreds of millions of litres of oil. However, lurking beneath the new disaster, an older spill continued to spit continuously: a leak that began when another oil rig was damaged six years earlier.
The Taylor oil spill is still growing after all this time; unloading what is believed to be tens of thousands of litres per day in the Gulf since 2004. According to some estimates, the chronic leak could soon be greater, cumulatively, than the Deepwater disaster, which yielded up to 666 million gallons ( or 4.2 million barrels ) of oil in the Gulf. That would also make Taylor one of the greatest environmental disasters on the high seas in US history.
In September, the Department of Justice submitted an independent study on the nature and volume of the spill claiming that previous damage assessments, submitted by the owner of the Taylor Energy Co. platform and compiled by the Coast Guard, significantly underestimated the amount of oil ejected. According to the presentation, the Taylor spill throws between 75,000 and 113,000 litres of oil per day.
As for the amount of oil that has leaked since the beginning of the spill, it is difficult to say. An estimate of SkyTruth, a satellite surveillance organization, put the total between 3.2 and 15 million litres by the end of 2017. If you take the calculations of the presentation of the Department of Justice, the number is astronomically higher: more than 579 million litres in 14 years.
Dr. Oscar García-Pineda, the author of the analysis commissioned by DOJ, declined to comment to CNN, citing an ongoing lawsuit.
They call the community to act
The Taylor spill began when an oil rig belonging to Taylor Energy was damaged and sank during a landslide caused by Hurricane Ivan in 2004. However, it was not until 2010, after the BP oil spill, that people He really began to notice that something was wrong. According to local activists, the warnings do not come from the Coast Guard, the government or any oil company. They came from people from the Gulf community who simply saw it with their own eyes.
Marylee Orr is the executive director of the Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN). He says that, in 2010, people who conducted aerial surveillance near the BP oil spill began to notice another form, a shadow of an oil slick adjacent to the main spill that did not seem to match.
“In 2010, nobody really knew, and maybe nobody would know now if there were not citizens and non-profit organizations that tried to be good managers,” he says.
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In 2012, LEAN, along with the Apalachicola Riverkeeper and several other environmental organizations in Louisiana, filed a lawsuit against Taylor Energy, initiating years of litigation between activist organizations, the oil company and several government entities. Taylor resolved the lawsuit with LEAN, et. in 2015.
Taylor Energy liquidated its oil and gas assets and stopped producing and drilling in 2008. CNN contacted Taylor Energy for comments and received no response.
An impact difficult to measure
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While the numbers clearly show that the Taylor oil spill is approaching, if not exceeding, the volume of the BP oil spill, that does not mean that the environmental impact is the same.
“This is an oil that filters slowly and steadily over time, so the impact on the environment is very different,” says Amos. “One of the annoying things about the Taylor spill is that the consequences of this have been kept secret, there has not been much public or political pressure to do the research to find out what the damage of a long-term, chronic leak is.”.
Other impacts also have to be considered: the impacts on corporate responsibility, regulations and transparency in the oil industry and the viability and risks of offshore drilling, to name a few. At a time when the White House has expressed interest in expanding drilling on the high seas and several states have come up with strong opposition plans, such as Oregon, where Gov. Kate Brown has just announced a plan to ban offshore drilling as Along the coast of the state, the Taylor oil spill is set to remain a painful touchstone.
Source: CNN Espanol