The energy company responsible for the 2004 Gulf of Mexico oil spill agreed to turn over all of its remaining assets under a consent decree.
Taylor Energy Company will pay $43 million in civil penalties and transfer its $432 million trust fund that was dedicated to cleaning the spill, the Department of Justice announced Wednesday. In 2004, Hurricane Ivan hit the Gulf of Mexico, destroying an oil drilling platform operated by Taylor Energy off the coast of Louisiana.
The ensuing spill was largely cleaned up by the company, government agencies and private groups. However, millions of barrels of oil have continued to leak from the site, making it the largest continuous spill in U.S. history, The Washington Post reported.
“Offshore operators cannot allow oil to spill into our nation’s waters,” Todd Kim, the DOJ’s assistant attorney general for environment and natural resources, said in a statement on Wednesday. (RELATED: Democrats Demand Federal Probe Into Oil, Gas Industry Over ‘Life-Threatening Environmental Justice Issue’)
“If an oil spill occurs, the responsible party must cooperate with the government to timely address the problem and pay for the cleanup,” Kim said. “Holding offshore operators to account is vital to protecting our environment and ensuring a level industry playing field.”
The U.S. filed its federal lawsuit against Taylor Energy in October 2020, asking the court to order the firm to pay civil penalties, removal costs and natural resource damages under the Oil Pollution and Clean Water Acts. Taylor Energy agreed to a settlement Wednesday under a consent decree that required the federal court’s approval.
In 2008, the company sold its oil and gas production assets and funded an account that would be used to contain the spill. Since then, Taylor Energy has only remained a company to respond to the incident.
“The damage to our ecosystem caused by this 17-year-old oil spill is unacceptable,” U.S. Attorney Duane Evans for the Eastern District of Louisiana said in a statement. “The federal government will hold accountable businesses that violate our Nation’s environmental laws.”
Interior Department Deputy Secretary Tommy Beaudreau lauded the Coast Guard for its work mitigating the oil spill’s negative impacts on the environment and said the decision Wednesday protected U.S. taxpayers.
Taylor Energy, meanwhile, has long argued that government studies showing that the spill was ongoing are inaccurate and neglect key data showing otherwise. The company has also pointed to competing research that suggests oil isn’t spilling from its former site.
“Reaching a consensus understanding of the source of the sheen is absolutely necessary before any decisions can be made in regard to further action at the MC-20 site,” Taylor Energy president Will Pecue said in a statement in May 2020 after one study was published. “Everyone, including Taylor Energy, wants to see a reduction or elimination of the surface sheen.”
“Unfortunately, the government’s scientists have oversimplified this complex matter, purposely ignored key data, withheld acquired data and physical samples, and operated in secrecy,” Pecue said. “This type of behavior is detrimental to determining a responsible path forward for the benefit of the environment and all stakeholders.”
Taylor Energy didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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