A new federal study issued this week concludes that an oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico has been releasing as much as 4,500 gallons a day, The New York Times reports. far more than the rig owner’s claim of three or four gallons a day.
The leak, about 12 miles off the Louisiana coast, began in 2004 when a Taylor Energy Company oil platform sank during Hurricane Ivan, rupturing a bundle of undersea pipes. Oil has been seeping from the site ever since.
Taylor Energy, which sold its assets in 2008, is fighting a federal order to stop the leak. The company says the leaking has been slight—between 2.4 and four gallons per day. Oil plumes from the seafloor, Taylor executives have said, are from oil-soaked sediment that has formed around the platform, and any gas rising from the bottom is the natural product of living organisms.
“The results of this study contradict these conclusions,” states the report, issued Monday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Florida State University.
The study comes as the Trump administration works to roll back a key offshore-drilling safety regulation that was put in place after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. That disaster, the worst oil spill in United States history, killed 11 people and released an estimated 4.9 million barrels into the sea.
The Taylor Energy spill had remained largely out of the spotlight, but researchers monitoring satellite images of the Deepwater Horizon zone noticed “persistent oil slicks that appeared unrelated to the 2010 spill.” Despite Taylor’s claims of minimal leakage, researchers found that as many as 108 barrels of oil, or just over 4,500 gallons, have spilled into the Gulf each day as a result of the episode.