WASHINGTON (AP) -- For more than a decade, oil has been leaking into the Gulf of Mexico where a hurricane toppled a drilling company's platform off the coast of Louisiana. Now the federal government is warning that the leak could last another century or more if left unchecked. Government estimates obtained by The Associated Press provide new details about the scope of a leak that has persisted since Hurricane Ivan in 2004.
Taylor Energy Co., which owned the platform and a cluster of oil wells, has played down the extent and environmental impact of the leak. The company also maintains that nothing can be done to completely eliminate the chronic oil slicks that often stretch for miles off the Louisiana coast. Taylor has tried to broker a deal with the government to resolve its financial obligations for the leak, but authorities have rebuffed those overtures and have ordered additional work by the company, according to Justice Department officials who were not authorized to comment by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.
"There is still more that can be done by Taylor to control and contain the oil that is discharging" from the site, says an Interior Department fact sheet obtained by the AP. Federal regulators suspect oil is still leaking from at least one of 25 wells that remain buried under mounds of sediment from an underwater mudslide triggered by waves whipped up by Hurricane Ivan.
A Taylor contractor drilled new wells to intercept and plug nine wells deemed capable of leaking oil. But a company official has asserted that experts agree the "best course of action ... is to not take any affirmative action" due to the risks of additional drilling. An AP investigation last month revealed evidence that the leak is far worse than Taylor, or the government, has publicly reported during a secretive response to the slow-motion spill.
The AP's review of more than 2,300 Coast Guard pollution reports since 2008 showed a dramatic spike in sheen sizes and oil volumes since Sept. 1, 2014. That reported increase came just after federal regulators held a workshop last August.