Federal government and Taylor Energy have tried to keep secret the details of a spill that could bleed oil into the Gulf for a century
May 21, 2015, New Orleans, LA and New York, NY — Magistrate Judge Roby has ruled in favor of Apalachicola Riverkeeper, Louisiana Environmental Action Network, and Waterkeeper Alliance, finding that Taylor Energy cannot keep from the public important documents about an ongoing spill into the Gulf of Mexico. The spill is the result of an underwater mudslide, which destroyed a Taylor Energy oil platform and buried wells during Hurricane Ivan in 2004.
Judge Roby ruled from the bench after oral arguments on confidentiality on Thursday, May 20, 2015, in an ongoing Clean Water Act case brought by the environmental groups in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. A formal ruling on the matter is expected later. In court, Judge Roby made clear that she believes the true extent and impact of the spill, and what Taylor Energy is or is not doing to address it, are matters of public concern.
Taylor Energy’s assertion of confidentiality prevented the details of this oil spill, including any remediation measures, from becoming public. Recent reports from an investigation by the Associated Press indicate that the government and Taylor Energy have attempted to hide the information from the public. According to an Associated Press report, “Only the broad outlines of the company’s response work are known. The government has agreed to keep many details under wraps in the name of protecting the company’s trade secrets.”
This report also revealed that a factsheet written by the Interior Department estimated that oil could leak from the Taylor Energy site for full century or more if not adequately addressed. Yet, Taylor Energy asserted that no further remediation is needed, attempting to keep confidential the information on what the company has done to try and stop the spill.
“One of the goals of this lawsuit was to get information about this ongoing oil spill out in the open,” said Marc Yaggi, executive director at Waterkeeper Alliance. “We are glad that Magistrate Judge Roby agreed with us that a company should not be allowed to cause environmental disasters and then hide information about it from the public.”
“This is an ongoing and far-reaching environmental disaster. All of the fish that migrate around the Gulf’s perimeter will continue to encounter this oil spill year after year and this will no doubt have a harmful impact on both recreational and commercial fishing interests”, said Dan Tonsmeire, Apalachicola Riverkeeper
Paul Orr, the Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper of Louisiana Environmental Action Network, added: “As we looked into this situation, it became clear that Taylor wanted to keep it as secret as possible, they made no bones about the fact that they did not want the public to know about what was happening. We strongly believe that when public resources like the waters and fisheries of the Gulf are affected by private enterprise that the public has a right to know what is happening and that their interests should be represented. The U.S. Government has failed at it’s responsibility to inform the public and represent their interests and that is where Waterkeepers come in, to restore the democratic principles we seem to be losing to corporate power.”
The groups will share further information once a formal ruling has been issued.