The U.S. Coast Guard achieved a major milestone last week, finally containing an oil spill that has been contaminating the Gulf of Mexico for nearly 15 years.
Taylor Energy, the company that the Coast Guard holds responsible for the problem, rejected a Coast Guard order to contain the spill and filed a lawsuit in federal court in December attempting to thwart the agency's own containment effort.
The suit contended that the company contracted by the Coast Guard, Couvillon Group, lacked the expertise necessary for the job. But Coast Guard Capt. Kristi Luttrell announced Thursday that a system installed by Couvillon 12 miles off Louisiana has collected about 30,000 gallons, 715 barrels, of oil in about a month.
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Taylor Energy had claimed that almost no oil was present at the leak site, which developed due to damage to an oil platform caused by Hurricane Ivan in September 2004. An independent analysis found that between 1.5 million and 3.5 million gallons leaked into the Gulf of Mexico from the site, resulting in the Coast Guard order to Taylor Energy to contain the spill or face fines of up to $40,000 per day.
Salvaged oil from the spill is government property, and the Coast Guard has sold it to offset Couvillon's bill for the project.
Now that the leak is at least contained, the Coast Guard should move aggressively in court to transfer the financial responsibility for the project to the company. And it should ensure that the company plugs the well or wells to ensure that the leak is not just contained, but eliminated.