New Orleans, LA
On Wednesday, Taylor Energy settled with the Department of Interior, agreeing to turn over more than $400 million for the government to plug the longest-running offshore oil spill in U.S. history. In addition to the payment for decommissioning costs, the settlement includes $16.5 million for natural resources damages, as well as Clean Water Act penalties. Healthy Gulf, a New Orleans-based advocacy group represented by Earthjustice, intervened in a lawsuit defending the U.S. Coast Guard’s actions in 2018 to finally begin containing the ongoing Taylor Energy oil spill that has been leaking off the coast of Louisiana for over 14 years. The government will be opening a 45-day public comment period on the proposed settlement agreement.
In response to the settlement, Earthjustice senior attorney Chris Eaton issued the following statement:
“We are pleased that the Department of the Interior will now be able to move forward with finally plugging this long-running oil spill. The Taylor spill is another example of the disastrous impact of offshore drilling on the Gulf’s ecosystem and wildlife. We applaud the Coast Guard and Interior for taking the necessary action to hold polluting industry accountable, and we will continue to hold the government to its promises to get this oil spill plugged once and for all.”
Dustin Renaud for Healthy Gulf issued this statement:
“For 18 years, Taylor Energy has been polluting the Gulf of Mexico with millions of gallons of oil. Taylor has consistently used the courts to avoid responsibility to plug their oil wells. Today, that changes, and we can finally permanently plug these polluting oil wells. Since the Coast Guard took over the cleanup in 2019, over 700,000 gallons of Taylor’s oil have been collected and kept from harming Gulf sea life. It’s time to put the Gulf’s best engineers and workers on the job to plug these wells for good.”
Collapsed wells at Taylor Energy’s drilling site approximately 15 miles off the southeast Louisiana coast have been discharging oil into the Gulf of Mexico since 2004, when Hurricane Ivan caused the company’s oil platform to topple and sink. Neither Taylor nor the federal government had undertaken comprehensive containment or control measures until October 2018, when the U.S. Coast Guard ordered Taylor to propose a plan to immediately contain the ongoing oil release. When Taylor failed to comply with the order, the Coast Guard contracted with a remediation company to work quickly towards capping the spill. Prior to the settlement, Taylor was seeking to reverse that order in federal court. Taylor’s lawsuit aimed to bar any work by the federal government or its contractor on the spill response, effectively asking the court to allow its oil spill to continue indefinitely.
Healthy Gulf and its partner organizations discovered the existence of the Taylor Energy spill by chance in 2010 when out on a monitoring mission for the Deepwater Horizon spill. Since then, the organization has repeatedly asked the federal government to hold Taylor accountable and stem the uncontrolled flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. After the government finally took such action, Healthy Gulf has helped defend that action as an intervenor in Taylor’s lawsuit to ensure that remediation of the Taylor spill is taken and that a long-term plan is in place to stop the release of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.