Gulf of Mexico oil spill much worse than thought, federal lawyers say

This April 10, 2011 picture shows a rig and supply vessel in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Louisiana. (Gerald Herbert / AP file)

Federal government lawyers say a 14-year-old leak is releasing much more oil each day into the Gulf of Mexico than officials previously claimed, and it may be getting worse.

A Friday court filing in a case involving Taylor Energy Co. says 10,000 to 30,000 gallons daily is leaking from multiple wells around a drilling platform toppled by 2004’s Hurricane Ivan.

That estimate is far above the 16,000 gallons of oil that the U.S. Coast Guard estimated in 2015 had been spotted in slicks over seven months.

The government cites a report it commissioned from a scientist who has studied satellite images of persistent oil slicks and sampled floating oil at the site about 10 miles offshore. That report also suggests that while the amount of leaking oil decreased after some wells were plugged in 2011, the leak may be getting bigger again.

"There has been an uptrend of the areas of the slick during the last two years," wrote Oscar Pineda-Garcia, who runs a company that maps oil spills and is an adjunct professor at Florida State University.

New Orleans-based Taylor said only 2 to 3 gallons was leaking daily out of mud on the seafloor. Spokesman Todd Ragusa said the company disputes the government’s new estimate and will respond in court.

“The government’s recent filing is completely contrary to the comprehensive, sound science acquired by world-renowned experts, including those regularly relied upon by the government,” Ragusa wrote in an email to The Associated Press.

A 2015 AP investigation revealed evidence that the leak was worse than the company, or government, had publicly reported during their secretive response. Presented with AP’s findings that year, the Coast Guard provided a new leak estimate that was about 20 times larger than one cited by the company in a 2015 court filing.

Friday’s court filing also says Taylor and the Coast Guard met in August and discussed plugging more wells as part of an effort to eliminate the persistent oil sheen seen at the site. The wellheads are more than 400 feet underwater and buried under 60 to 100 feet of mud.

Taylor sued the government in January 2016 to[…]

More about the Gulf of Mexico water quality:

Lawsuit Launched Against Trump EPA for Approving Fracking Waste Dumping Into Gulf of Mexico

2017 Summer Gulf ‘Dead Zone’ Could Be Bigger Than Connecticut

Gulf Coast Oil Spill May Be Largest Since 2010 BP Disaster

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Gulf of Mexico oil spill much worse than thought, federal lawyers say
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Gulf of Mexico oil spill much worse than thought, federal lawyers say
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Amount of leaking oil decreased after wells were plugged, but leaks may be growing. The wellheads are over 400 feet underwater and under 60-100 feet of mud.
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Orlando Sentinel
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