Yesterday, Taylor Energy, the company responsible for a decade-old oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, held a public meeting to disclose details of the chronic spill. Taylor Energy was required to host this public, daylong hearing as a result of a court settlement with environmental groups.
The leak began in 2004, when Hurricane Ivan toppled a platform owned by Taylor Energy. Eleven years later, oil is still leaking from the site, and the company claims nothing can be done to stop it. It is estimated that since 2004 between 300,000 and 1.4 million gallons of oil have spilled from the site into the Gulf of Mexico.
At a time when decision-makers and oil companies are looking to expand drilling off the Atlantic coast, what is happening with Taylor Energy should be viewed as a cautionary tale. This ongoing leak shows us that contrary to industry and government claims, not all spills can be stopped. What happened with Taylor Energy could happen anywhere that drilling occurs.There were experts who feared the BP disaster could not be stopped, and we know that even when the well was finally capped 87 days later, the impacts were severe and lasting. Over five years later, the Gulf coast is still reeling from the worst oil disaster in US history.
As we learned in 2010, and as we can see with the Taylor Energy leak, the oil industry and our federal government are not prepared to respond to oil disasters. With this is mind, it seems irresponsible to open the Atlantic to offshore drilling – there is too much to lose and too little to gain through drilling expansion. Right now, we need industry to accept increased safety and environmental protection on existing oil infrastructure, and for our government to stop prioritizing industry profits over the environment and our communities.
Why are we asking communities on other coasts to accept the risks of offshore drilling when we see that industry and our government are not capable of keeping communities already subject to these risks safe? Now is not the time to expand drilling off the Atlantic coast. Now is the time for increased safety and environmental protection in regions where there is already exploration and development.
Cyn Sarthou is the Executive Director of Gulf Restoration Network.