In 2004, as Hurricane Ivan – the 10th most intense Atlantic hurricane on record – passed through the Gulf of Mexico, a massive seafloor slope failure swept away Taylor Energy Company’s oil production platform located in the Mississippi Canyon area, Block 20 (MC-20). Since then, Taylor Energy has been committed to a safe and effective response to protect the environment.
Taylor Energy exists today solely to address this incident. In 2008, the company sold all of its oil and gas assets and entered into a contract with the government under which Taylor Energy funded a Trust with $666 million to secure the performance of specific well and facility Decommissioning obligations at MC-20. Separate from the Trust, the company continues to fund Response efforts, including monitoring by overflights, conducting comprehensive scientific studies of site conditions, making response assets ready for deployment and constructing containment domes located onshore for deployment should a change in conditions warrant their use.
The Collaborative Response
For more than a decade, a Unified Command, comprised of Taylor Energy, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), had worked together in the response effort to plug wells, capture residual oil, and conduct extensive studies. Over the course of this time, Taylor Energy spent roughly $480 million to successfully plug wells, install a containment system, monitor the site, maintain readiness capabilities, and perform scientific studies to evaluate site conditions.
The Scientific Consensus
In 2013, scientists from 21 federal and state agencies, as well as leading experts from the private sector, concluded that performance of further decommissioning activities at the site poses the risk of causing far more environmental harm than good. Multiple scientific reports also conclude the sheen on the water’s surface is caused by remnant oil seeping from contaminated sediment on the seafloor. The best, safest solution is not to risk an active release from a well by attempting any further plugging and not taking actions that would disturb the sediments and release trapped oil into the water column. The appropriate response posture is to monitor the site and maintain readiness capabilities while allowing for natural attenuation to gradually reduce the sheen and for sedimentation to encapsulate the trapped oil.
With the consensus that further decommissioning activities pose the risk of causing far more environmental harm than good, Unified Command’s response posture had been to monitor the sheen while being ready to mobilize should conditions change. Taylor Energy is committed to protecting the environment and meeting all of its obligations as the current Responsible Party.
The Government’s About Face
In 2018, a deeply-flawed report, commissioned by the government for litigation purposes and not to guide the Unified Command’s response, wildly exaggerated the volume of oil released per day. The flawed analysis claimed the volumes are more than 1,000 times greater than prior consensus conclusions, which were based on the years of data on record compiled by the Unified Command. This misleading and erroneous analysis received wide media coverage, which seemingly prompted the Coast Guard to reverse its position – despite the vast consensus scientific record cautioning against disruption of the site that could cause the release of significant volumes of otherwise contained oil.
The Call to Action
To prevent a potential resulting disaster, Taylor Energy is taking action in an effort to stop the government from triggering increased environmental exposure. This includes legal actions against the Coast Guard and the private contractor hired by the Coast Guard to carry out this potentially environmentally hazardous action.
If left unchecked, the ill-advised actions of the government could damage the environment, including marine life and the Louisiana coastline. Beyond that, these arbitrary actions and disregard of due process to Taylor Energy should give pause to all Americans.