Oil and Gas Leaks in the Gulf – Business as Usual

On September 30, 2013 the Gulf Monitoring Consortium conducted a monitoring flight of south-east Louisiana and found what it always finds; oil and gas operations spilling oil and other pollutants into the Gulf of Mexico and Louisiana coastal wetlands. Here are some highlights, or perhaps, “lowlights” from the flight:

Coastal wetlands destroyed by oil and gas activity.

The slick from the still leaking Taylor wells off of the Mississippi River delta stretched into the distance as usual and reminded the passengers of the BP oil disaster. This oil has been leaking into the Gulf of Mexico since 2004. An NRC report was attempted to be made by GMC but was rejected because NRC reports are also filed daily by Taylor. The NRC report for Sept. 30 can be seen here: http://alerts.skytruth.org/report/9248a2f7-f0dc-349c-b43d-7aa44524e08e To learn more about the Taylor leak go to: http://blog.skytruth.org/2013/06/9-years-countless-gallons-spilled-no.html and http://lmrk.org/lmrk-news-feed/judge-denies-taylor-energy-motion-to-dismiss-clean-water-act-violations-suit/

Coastal wetlands destroyed by oil and gas activity.

A sizable oil slick was seen south of Port Fourchon near a Chevron platform and appears that it could be from a leaking pipeline below the surface. Reported to the NRC by GMC: http://alerts.skytruth.org/report/318c5b35-3b82-3833-8111-6d77c4b2a56d There does not appear to be an NRC report from the responsible party.

10023247015_690affb973_o

A badly leaking platform in East Bay near wells owned by EPL Oil & Gas and Shell. Submitted to the NRC by GMC: http://alerts.skytruth.org/report/09b9a069-f208-3f08-92cd-0606a3e53746 This appears to be the NRC report submitted by EPL Oil & Gas: http://alerts.skytruth.org/report/87b6e429-9424-3c7a-b0eb-c36a8b1ccb27 with the cause of the leak being reported as internal corrosion from a flow line.

Coastal wetlands destroyed by oil and gas activity.

Oil and gas wells also produce wastewater called “produced water” which often contains high levels of salts, chemicals from drilling fluids, and naturally occuring radioactive material. The state of Louisiana allows produced waters from oil and gas rigs in Louisiana State waters to be discharged directly into the Gulf of Mexico without any treatment. Due to a lawsuit brought by Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN) the court has ordered the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality to examine the impacts of produced waters on Louisiana’s environment.

Coastal wetlands destroyed by oil and gas activity.

A leaking oil well that appears to be owned by Apache Corporation near Golden Meadow. Submitted to the NRC by GMC: http://alerts.skytruth.org/report/9dec11d3-84ea-3942-b4ef-1e8cc54f8fe7 This appears to be the NRC report submitted by Apache Corporation on the day after our flight (Oct. 1) for the leak: http://alerts.skytruth.org/report/2f638365-70c9-3851-a2a9-a5b334d785e9 with the cause of the leak being reported as a corroded flow line. The Gulf environment is highly corrosive to metals.

Coastal wetlands destroyed by oil and gas activity.

Louisiana coastal wetlands cut into shreds by oil and gas activity. A lawsuit brought by a levee authority in South East Louisiana against oil and gas companies has re-ignited the debate over wether oil and gas companies should be held responsible for the damge that they have caused to Louisiana’s coastal wetlands.

The flight was provided by GMC member SouthWings and piloted by Bruce McGregor. NRC reports and additional photo documentation made by Jonathan Henderson of Gulf Restoration Network and photo documentation made by Jeffrey Dubinsky of Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper. Pre-flight NRC analysis by SkyTruth.

To see all of the photos from this flight go to:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/lowermississippiriverkeeper/sets/72157636085561595/

Judge Denies Taylor Energy Motion to Dismiss Clean Water Act Violations Suit

Crude oil leaking from Taylor Energy's damaged well stretches from the source to the horizon.

Crude oil leaking from Taylor Energy’s damaged well stretches from the source to the horizon in this photo taken on a Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper/Gulf Monitoring Consortium monitoring flight which was provided by SouthWings.

New Orleans, LA – Yesterday, the judge in a lawsuit (Apalachicola Riverkeeper v. Taylor Energy Co. LLC) brought against Taylor Energy for a leaking oil well issued an order denying most of Taylor Energy’s Motion to Dismiss and denied Taylor’s Motion to Stay the lawsuit. The Clean Water Act lawsuit was brought by Apalachicola Riverkeeper, Louisiana Environmental Action Network on behalf of it’s Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper program, and Waterkeeper Alliance in an effort to stop Taylor’s oil discharges of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Three claims by the plaintiffs said that 1) Taylor violates the Clean Water Act by discharging oil without a Clean Water Act permit, 2) if Taylor somehow has a Clean Water Act permit, Taylor is violating that permit; and 3) by discharging oil into the Gulf, Taylor is disposing of waste and causing or contributing to a situation that may pose an imminent hazard to the public or the environment. The Judge dismissed the second claim because Taylor has now admitted that it has no Clean Water Act permit for discharge of oil. Aside from that, Taylor has lost its motion and Waterkeepers will move forward with the lawsuit.

“This lawsuit is necessary because of Taylor’s slow pace in stopping the flow of oil from its wells into the Gulf. To the best of the Waterkeepers’ knowledge, this contamination has continued for nearly nine years,” said Marc Yaggi, Executive Director of Waterkeeper Alliance. “This lawsuit is also needed because of the secrecy surrounding Taylor’s response to a multi-year spill that threatens public resources. BP took five months to kill the Deepwater Horizon well to the outrage of the Nation. In this case, Taylor’s leak has been ongoing for more almost nine years.”

Waterkeeper Alliance is a founding member of Gulf Monitoring Consortium, a rapid response alliance that collects, analyzes and publishes images and other information from space, sky, and the surface to investigate and expose oil pollution incidents that occur in the Gulf of Mexico. Gulf Monitoring Consortium has been pivotal in identifying and documenting the ongoing Taylor leak.

Oil leaking from Taylor Energy's well snakes past an unrelated platform in this photo taken on a Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper/Gulf Monitoring Consortium monitoring flight which was provided by SouthWings.

Oil leaking from Taylor Energy’s well snakes past an unrelated platform in this photo taken on a Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper/Gulf Monitoring Consortium monitoring flight which was provided by SouthWings.

An underground mudslide began this spill on about September 15, 2004, by destroying a Taylor drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico and burying up to 28 wells. Without details about Taylor’s response to this crisis, it is impossible for members of the public to assess the risk that similar events will cause additional multi-year spills, including spills from higher-pressure wells in deeper water. Because such spills may damage the Gulf’s eco-system on a scale comparable to or exceeding that of the BP spill, it is essential that the public learn from the 9-year Taylor response.

The denial has already generated some press:

Environmental groups’ lawsuit to stop flow from failed Taylor Energy platform cleared for trial – The Times-Picayune

http://www.nola.com/environment/index.ssf/2013/07/environmental_groups_lawsuit_t.html

Taylor Can’t Dodge Gulf Spill Clean Water Act Suit – Law360 

http://www.law360.com/environmental/articles/459028/taylor-can-t-dodge-gulf-spill-clean-water-act-suit