The company responsible for a continuing oil leak that began a decade ago in the Gulf of Mexico is suing the federal government to recover more than $400 million that the company set aside for work to end the leak.
New Orleans-based Taylor Energy Company’s lawsuit, filed Monday in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, says the government violated a 2008 agreement requiring the company to deposit approximately $666 million in a trust to pay for leak response work. The company says the government must return the remaining $432 million.
Taylor Energy claims nothing can be done to completely eliminate chronic sheens at the site off Louisiana’s coast. Regulators warn the leak could last a century or more if left unchecked.
Taylor Energy has lobbied to recover at least a portion of the remaining money. Since December 2014, at least four members of Louisiana’s congressional delegation have sent letters urging the Obama administration to take up a settlement proposal by Taylor Energy.
But federal authorities rebuffed the company’s settlement overtures last year and ordered it to perform more work at the site, where a Taylor Energy-owned platform toppled during Hurricane Ivan in 2004.
An underwater mudslide triggered by waves whipped up by Ivan also buried a cluster of oil wells under treacherous mounds of sediment, preventing the company from using conventional techniques to plug its wells.
Taylor Energy says it already has spent more than $480 million on its efforts to stop the leak, with $234 million of that money coming from the trust.
In a document dated May 2015, regulators said Taylor Energy hasn’t completed all of the work that it committed to do under the 2008 trust agreement. The company disputes that contention.
“We remain committed to reaching a resolution on this matter, but it’s clear from inaccurate statements that some federal officials intent on ignoring the scientific record are preventing such a resolution,” Taylor Energy President William Pecue said in a written statement. “We have exhausted available avenues to reach an amicable resolution and have been forced to take formal legal action.”
An Associated Press investigation in April revealed evidence that the leak is worse than the company, or government, have publicly reported during their secretive response. Presented with AP’s findings, the Coast Guard provided a new leak estimate that’s about 20 times larger than one cited by the company in a court filing last year.
Using satellite images and Coast Guard pollution reports, West Virginia-based watchdog group SkyTruth has estimated that between 300,000 and 1.4 million gallons of oil have spilled from the site since 2004.