Bird’s-Eye View: Two New Leaks Discovered

This blog contains 3 sets of photos. The first two sets are from two new leaks in Breton Sound. The third set is of the leaking Taylor Energy site.Yesterday, thanks to the support of the team at Southwings, I was able to board a Cessna 210 piloted by Skipper Tonsmeier and fly out over the Gulf. Natalya Egon, a Harvard Graduate student was also along for the journey as part of her research for her Master’s degree. We left New Orleans Lake front Airport late in the morning and headed south to pay a visit to the ongoing menace known as the Taylor Energy leak. Well, Taylor is still leaking energy, that is for sure but, more on that in a minute.As we made our way south into Breton Sound, it didn’t take long for me to catch a glimpse of a glimmering rainbow sheen peering back at me through my binoculars. I asked our pilot to veer right and circle around so I could get a closer look. While the conditions yesterday were less than ideal for aerial photography, I was able to capture these images:After documenting that first scene, we got back on course and started south once again. I went back to gazing at the water below, the well-heads, pipeline canals, etc. Then, once again, something caught my eye. So, we went to take a closer look. This time, an oily sheen was marked with thick brownish streaks of crude. Where is it coming from? My guess is that it was coming from a pipeline below the surface. Nearby pipeline canals, warning signs, and the absence of a fixed structure like a well-head near the oil, all support this hypothesis. However, it is not for me to guess and I do not portend to be qualified to make that call, especially from 1000 ft. in the air. I have included a few photos of this second leak here:Eventually, we made it to the Taylor energy leak and much to my expectations there was, well, oil leaking. You may recall from previous blogs and photos that this location has been leaking since the platform was knocked down by hurricane Ivan in 2004. At its peak in the Gulf of Mexico, Ivan was the size of the state of Texas. Our friends at the Waterkeeper Alliance filed a 60 day notice of intent to sue for Clean water Act violations, so stay tuned for more information as that litigation moves forward. You can view new photos of the Taylor leak here:Upon returning to the office after yesterday’s flight, I filed three reports with the National Response Center.The report numbers are 997606, 997607, and 997609. As of the posting of this blog, the incident summaries do not appear on the NRC website. Hopefully, that means they are currently being investigated. The NRC contacted the Coast Guard who then contacted me and I gave the officer the details along with photos and GPS coordinates. The officer requested that in the future, before I head out on monitoring flights that I discuss with them what my flight plans are so that we can work together. I’m not sure how I feel about that considering the way the Coast Guard has, to date, handled the BP disaster. What the Gulf needs is a Regional Citizens’ Advisory council that has the assets to independently monitor the activity of the Oil and Gas industry. It was good enough for Alaska after the Exxon Valdez disaster in Prince William Sound, and it is definitely warranted here in the Gulf region. I and others reporting incidents in the Gulf have had discussions with the Coast Guard where they tell us that they simply do not have the budget, manpower or assets to respond to the reports effectively. This is a disgrace and Congress really needs to recognize the severity of the situation and step up. You can help us keep the pressure on Congress to establish an RCAC by taking action at Please take it a step further and share with your friends and social networks. A healthy gulf will continue to be far out of reach if people like us do not demand action from our leaders.Jonathan Henderson is the Coastal Resiliency Organizer for GRN.

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