Taylor Energy sues to block order to contain 14-year-old oil leak

Taylor Energy, the company that has so far failed to end a 14-year-old oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, is suing to challenge a Coast Guard official’s order to design and install a new containment system to capture and remove the crude before it forms slicks that often stretch for miles.

The federal lawsuit that Taylor Energy Co. filed Thursday in New Orleans asks the court to throw out Coast Guard Capt. Kristi Luttrell’s Oct. 23 administrative order.

The company faces daily civil penalties of up to $40,000 if it fails to comply with the order. Luttrell issued it one day after The Washington Post published a front-page story about the leak off Louisiana’s coast. The story included a new estimate that approximately 10,500 to 29,400 gallons of oil is leaking daily from the site where a Taylor Energy-owned platform toppled during Hurricane Ivan in 2004.

That estimate, contained in a report that the federal government commissioned from a Florida State University researcher, is much higher than previous government estimates and dwarfs the company’s own assessment of the leak’s volume.

“The Coast Guard’s actions were an abrupt departure from the well-verified scientific conclusions in the record and were taken in response to adverse publicity, rather than in response to any imminent and substantial threat to the public health or welfare,” the suit says.

Taylor Energy has argued that performing more work out at the leak site could be dangerous and cause more environmental harm than good. The underwater mudslide that wrecked Taylor Energy’s platform during Hurricane Ivan also buried a cluster of oil wells under mounds of treacherous sediment, preventing the company from employing traditional techniques to plug them.

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