Waterkeepers Send Intent to Sue for Chronic Oil Spill in Gulf of Mexico

Press Release

Waterkeepers Serve Notice of Intent to Sue Under Federal Environmental Laws, Targeting Oil Spills from the “Taylor Wells” in the Gulf of Mexico

October 12, 2011

Contact:  Justin Bloom, Waterkeeper Alliance, 212-747-0622 x11, jbloom@waterkeeper.org
Renee Blanchard, Waterkeeper Alliance, 202-378-3704 rblanchard@waterkeeper.org
New Orleans, LA-     Waterkeeper Alliance and several Gulf Coast Waterkeeper organizations announced today that Taylor Energy Co. LLC, Samsung C&T America, Inc., and Korea National Oil Corp. have been put on formal notice that the Waterkeepers intend to file suit under the citizens suit provisions of the Clean Water Act and Resource Conservation Recovery Act, for ongoing discharge violations that pose an imminent and substantial endangerment to health and the environment.  The Notice follows the Waterkeepers’ investigation of Oil platform #23051 and its associated wells, referred to as the “Taylor Wells,” located in the Gulf of Mexico, approximately 11 miles off the coast of Louisiana.

Aided by satellite imagery and research expertise provided by SkyTruth,  the Waterkeepers learned that violations have been ongoing from the Taylor platform since at least October 1, 2006 and that the oil continues to discharge between 100 to 400 gallons of oil per day.  The discharge produces visible slicks of oil on the water.  One observed by SkyTruth on June 18, 2011, contained an estimated 3,157 gallons of oil.  A chronology of observations and records of National Response Center (NRC) Pollution Reports can be found here, or at http://blog.skytruth.org/p/site-23051-chronology.html.

Joining Waterkeeper Alliance, the international environmental organization, and representing their individual members are: Atchfalaya Basinkeeper, Baton Rouge, LA; Emerald Coastkeeper, Pensacola, FL; Galveston Baykeeper, Galveston, TX, Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper, Baton Rouge, LA; Louisiana Bayoukeeper, Lafitte, LA and Louisiana Environmental Action Network, Baton Rouge, LA.  The Waterkeepers are represented by the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic.

The Clean Water Act requires a waiting period of at least 60 days before filing a citizen enforcement action after providing notice of intent. This gives the parties a reasonable time to resolve the matter cooperatively, without litigation.

Paul Orr, the Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper remarked that “for more than five years, the owners and operators of these wells have been polluting our Gulf waters and government regulators have allowed it to continue. These spills degrade the natural resources that are the lifeblood of our Gulf Coast communities. It is time to put an end to the thousands of spills that happen every year in the Gulf.”

Oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico are a daily occurrence.  In their recently released State of the Gulf report, the Gulf Coast Waterkeepers revealed that at least 3,156 new crude oil spills have occurred in the Gulf between September 2010 and September 2011.  A link to the report can be found here, or at http://saveourgulf.org/updates/state-gulf-released-gulf-coast-waterkeepers.  Sadly, there appears to be little incentive on the part of industry to be more vigilant.  According to a report in Bloomberg News in 2009, in Louisiana alone, only 1 oil spill out of 100 resulted in a financial penalty.  (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-02-03/oil-spills-in-most-imperiled-u-s-coastal-wetland-escape-fines.html)

“The BP oil disaster was not the first oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and it won’t be the last.  The industry clearly has an oil spill problem.  Most people are not aware of how little accountability there is for polluters.  Out of sight, out of mind seems to be the status quo, but our Gulf of Mexico Waterkeepers hope to bring visibility and action to stop oil spills that affect communities all along the Gulf Coast,” said Renee Blanchard of Waterkeeper Alliance.

“At a time when we most need the protections offered by our environmental laws, they are under increasing attack. As the Clean Water Act turns 39 next week, keep in mind that these are the tools that we as a nation rely upon for a healthy environment and our future prosperity,” said Marc Yaggi, Executive Director of Waterkeeper Alliance.

Jamie Rodgers, the Florida Panhandle’s Emerald Coastkeeper commented that “the Clean Water Act and other Federal Environmental Laws are the foundation for the private and public response to the Deepwater Horizon disaster.  These critically important tools are what we rely upon to curb the continuing pollution of the Gulf of Mexico, to make violators accountable.”

Waterkeeper Alliance is a global environmental movement uniting more than 190 Waterkeeper organizations around the world and focusing citizen advocacy on the issues that affect our waterways, from pollution to climate change. Waterkeepers patrol more than 1.5 million square miles of rivers, streams and coastlines in the Americas, Europe, Australia, Asia and Africa.  Follow Waterkeeper Alliance on Twitter at @Waterkeeper and on Facebook.


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