Coast Guard orders cleanup of massive 14-year oil spill in Gulf of Mexico

The federal government issued an ultimatum to an energy company to stop an oil spill that has been leaking thousands of gallons into the Gulf of Mexico every day for more than 14 years.

In an order issued by the U.S. Coast Guard, Taylor Energy Co. was told to “institute a … system to capture, contain, or remove oil” from the site or face a $40,000 per day fine for failing to comply. The order was issued after The Washington Post reported that the spill was far greater than Interior Department estimates, which were based on company data.

Up to 700 barrels of oil per day have leaked from Taylor Energy’s former site 12 miles off the coast of Louisiana since the platform was destroyed during Hurricane Ivan in 2004, according to an analysis issued by the Justice Department. Each barrel contains 42 gallons. Based on reports from contractors hired by Taylor Energy, the government had previously estimated that the spill amounted to zero to 55 barrels per day.

The spill so far amounts to at least 1.5 million barrels, and up to 3.5 million barrels. That would rival the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, the largest offshore spill in the nation’s history, which spewed 4 million barrels of oil into gulf waters.

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