$475M settlement proposed in longest-running US oil spill

Dec 22, 2021, 1:20 PM | Updated: 1:27 pm

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A New Orleans-based oil company has agreed to turn over a $432 million cleanup trust fund and pay an additional $43 million to settle a federal lawsuit over cleaning up abandoned wells leaking since 2004, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.

“This settlement represents an important down payment to address impacts from the longest-running oil spill in U.S. history,” Nicole LeBoeuf, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency’s National Ocean Service, said in a news release from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Attorneys for Taylor Oil Co., which agreed to drop three lawsuits challenging government cleanup orders and measures, did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment. As is common in such agreements, the proposed settlement said Taylor does not admit any liability.

U.S. District Judge Greg Gerard Guidry will decide whether to approve the proposed consent decree after a 40-day public comment period.

Sixteen wells off Louisiana have been leaking since September 2004, when a subsea mudslide caused by Hurricane Ivan knocked over a Taylor production platform, dragging and breaking a cluster of pipes. Taylor plugged nine wells but has said it cannot plug the rest.

The settlement requires Taylor to drop its other lawsuits. In June, a federal appeals court agreed that a district judge was right to throw out a trespass suit against a federal contractor that created a system to capture most of the oil.

That system has captured and removed more than 800,000 gallons (3 million liters) of oil since April 2019, Coast Guard Capt. Will Watson, sector commander in New Orleans, said in the news release.

“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 Duane A. Evans, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

Taylor’s website states that it sold all its oil and gas assets in 2008 and exists now only to respond to the toppled platform. The company has agreed to turn over all remaining assets after liquidation, the government said.

The trust fund was created to plug the wells, permanently decommission the facility and clean contaminated soil. One of Taylor’s suits, filed in 2016, sought to get back the remaining money, claiming regulators had broken the agreement requiring it to put $666 million into the fund.

The company also had appealed the Coast Guard’s rejection of its claim for $353 million in cleanup costs.

The trust fund will be transferred to the Department of the Interior under the settlement. The additional $43 million — all of the company’s remaining assets — is for civil penalties, removal costs and natural resource damages, the news release said.

It includes a civil penalty of $15 million, $16.5 million for natural resources damage and more than $12 million for Coast Guard removal costs.

The company cannot interfere with the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement’s decommissioning work or the Coast Guard’s oil containment and removal, and will turn over all studies, reports and other documents about the site.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

In this photo provided by Grand Canyon National Park, an adult bison roams near a corral at the Nor...
Associated Press

Grand Canyon won’t seek volunteers to kill bison this fall

A bison herd that lives almost exclusively in the northern reaches of Grand Canyon National Park won't be targeted for removal this fall.
5 hours ago
South Korean Unification Minister Kwon Youngse speaks during a news conference in Seoul, South Kore...
Associated Press

Seoul urges China, Russia to prevent North Korean nuke test

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A top South Korean official said Monday that North Korea is increasingly targeting the South with its nuclear arms program, and urged China and Russia to persuade the North not to conduct a widely expected nuclear test. Unification Minster Kwon Youngse’s comments came after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un […]
5 hours ago
FILE - Pipes at the landfall facilities of the 'Nord Stream 2' gas pipline are pictured in Lubmin, ...
Associated Press

EU countries adopt mandatory gas storage amid Russia’s cuts

BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union countries agreed Monday that all natural gas storage in the 27-nation bloc should be topped up to at least 80% capacity for next winter as they prepare for the possibility of Russia further reducing deliveries. The EU is trying to slash its use of Russian energy amid the Kremlin’s war […]
5 hours ago
Water-filled barriers have been installed by police outside the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition...
Associated Press

Will he go or not? Hong Kong awaits word on Xi Jinping visit

HONG KONG (AP) — Will he go or not? Chinese President Xi Jinping kept Hong Kong guessing on Monday about his possible appearance at the 25th anniversary of the former British colony’s return to Chinese rule. The government has yet to say whether he will be physically present for the events, which include the inauguration […]
5 hours ago
A Norwegian national flag flutters over flowers and rainbow flags that are placed at the scene of a...
Associated Press

Norway: Suspect in deadly Pride shooting agrees to custody

OSLO, Norway (AP) — The suspect in Saturday’s mass shooting during an LGBTQ festival in Oslo has agreed to be held in pretrial custody for four weeks and will therefore not appear in court on Monday, a Norwegian court said. Zaniar Matapour, a 42-year-old Norwegian citizen originally from Iran, was arrested shortly after the predawn […]
5 hours ago
From left, Italy's Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, France's Pr...
Associated Press

EXPLAINER: G7 provides forum for like-minded democracies

ELMAU, Germany (AP) — In 1975, leaders of the world’s wealthy democracies gathered to deal with an energy crisis sparked by a war and rampant inflation. Those same sore points are bedeviling their successors representing 46% of the global economy at this week’s Group of Seven summit, with high consumer and energy prices threatening to […]
5 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Courtesy Condor)...
Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines shows passion for destinations from Sky Harbor with new-look aircraft

Condor Airlines brings passion to each flight and connects people to their dream destinations throughout the world.
...

Most plumbing problems can be fixed with regular maintenance

Instead of waiting for a problem to happen, experts suggest getting a head start on your plumbing maintenance.
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Vaccines are safe if you are pregnant or breastfeeding

Are you pregnant? Do you have a friend or loved one who’s expecting?
$475M settlement proposed in longest-running US oil spill