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$475 million settlement reached for Louisiana firm

Shocking as it sounds, the longest-running oil spill in American history clocks in at over 17 years. We’ll get into the parameters—which are certainly arguable—in a second, but that astounding number hasn’t gone unnoticed for its duration; in fact, it recently led to a $475 million settlement.

According to a U.S. Department of Justice statement December 22, Taylor Energy, a Louisiana oil and gas company, has agreed to turn over all its remaining assets to the United States upon liquidation to resolve its liability for the oil spill at its former Gulf of Mexico offshore oil production facility—the source of the longest-running oil spill in U.S. history, ongoing since 2004.

Under the proposed consent decree, Taylor Energy will transfer to the Department of the Interior (DOI) a $432 million trust fund dedicated to plugging the subsea oil wells, permanently decommissioning the facility, and remediating contaminated soil. A further $43 million is required for “civil penalties, removal costs and natural resource damages.”


“Offshore operators cannot allow oil to spill into our nation’s waters,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “If an oil spill occurs, the responsible party must cooperate with the government to timely address the problem and pay for the cleanup. Holding offshore operators to account is vital to protecting our environment and ensuring a level industry playing field.”

As mentioned, one could argue what constitutes an “ongoing” oil spill. In this case, that term is used in regards to spillage that has been captured or contained at various times during the 17-year duration. The trigger for the spill is also important.

The spill began in 2004, when a Taylor Energy production platform located in the Gulf of Mexico about 10 miles off the coast of Louisiana collapsed during Hurricane Ivan, resulting in an ongoing oil discharge that continues to this day. Since April 2019, the vast majority of the leaking oil has been successfully captured by a containment system installed and operated by the U.S. Coast Guard through a contractor. Today’s settlement was filed by the Justice Department on behalf of the Coast Guard, DOI and the federal and state trustees for natural resources. The designated federal trustees for the natural resources impacted by Taylor Energy’s oil spill are the U.S. Department of Commerce through the NOAA and DOI through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The designated state trustees are the Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinator’s Office, Department of Public Safety & Corrections; Louisiana Department of Natural Resources; Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality; Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries; and the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.

The spill began in 2004, when a Taylor Energy production platform located in the Gulf of Mexico about 10 miles off the coast of Louisiana collapsed during Hurricane Ivan, resulting in an ongoing oil discharge that continues to this day. Since April 2019, the vast majority of the leaking oil has been successfully captured by a containment system installed and operated by the U.S. Coast Guard through a contractor. Today’s settlement was filed by the Justice Department on behalf of the Coast Guard, DOI and the federal and state trustees for natural resources. The designated federal trustees for the natural resources impacted by Taylor Energy’s oil spill are the U.S. Department of Commerce through the NOAA and DOI through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The designated state trustees are the Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinator’s Office, Department of Public Safety & Corrections; Louisiana Department of Natural Resources; Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality; Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries; and the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.

“Despite being a catalyst for beneficial environmental technological innovation, the damage to our ecosystem caused by this 17-year-old oil spill is unacceptable,” said U.S. Attorney Duane A. Evans for the Eastern District of Louisiana. “The federal government will hold accountable businesses that violate our Nation’s environmental laws and ensure that any oil and gas company operating within our District meets their professional and legal responsibilities.”

“For the last three years, the Coast Guard, along with our federal partners, have committed to the challenging mission of containing and removing more than 800,000 gallons of oil discharging into the Gulf of Mexico,” said Captain Will Watson, Sector Commander of the Coast Guard New Orleans. “Containment and removal operations continue to this day. This settlement will provide significant financial resources for the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Coast Guard to permanently secure the wells, protect the marine environment, preserve marine resources and ensure compliance with the Oil Pollution Act of 1990.”

“This settlement represents an important down payment to address impacts from the longest-running oil spill in U.S. history,” said Nicole LeBoeuf, Director of NOAA’s National Ocean Service. “Millions of Americans along the Gulf Coast depend on healthy coastal ecosystems. NOAA and our co-trustees look forward to working in partnership with the National Pollution Funds Center to ensure the region and the ecosystem can recover from this ongoing tragedy.”

The settlement was filed as a proposed consent decree and is subject to a 40-day public comment period and court review and approval. A copy of the consent decree is available on the Department of Justice website at www.justice.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.

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