Oct 15, 2011 3:54 PM by Chris Welty
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - An environmental group is threatening to sue
over seepage from a Gulf of Mexico oil well that was destroyed by
Hurricane Ivan in 2004, but first officials must determine who owns
At issue is seepage at the lease site about 11 miles off the
No one is claiming a massive leak such as the BP well that was
buried in mud in April 2010 about 70 miles to the northeast. But
the group claims there is something leaking from the site and it
should be fixed.
Waterkeeper Alliance, a watchdog group, filed notice last week
that it intends to sue under the federal Clean Water Act and
Resource Conservation Recovery Act "for ongoing discharge
violations that pose an imminent and substantial endangerment to
health and the environment."
The law requires 60 days of notice of intent to file suit to
allow disputing parties to reach a settlement, said Adam Babich,
director of the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic, which is handling
Satellite images and on-site monitoring show leaks have been
occurring since at least October 2006 at a rate the group estimates
as 100 to 400 gallons of oil per day, said Justin Bloom of the
The demand letter was sent to three companies: Taylor Energy
Co., Korea National Oil Corp. and Samsung C&T Corp. In 2008, New
Orleans-based Taylor Energy sold most of its energy assets for an
undisclosed price to the other two companies, which formed a joint
venture to operate them.
But Korea National and Samsung on Thursday said they do not own
either a production platform or wells that are the target of the
potential lawsuit. The companies said ownership of those properties
was retained by Taylor Energy.
"Neither KNOC nor Samsung have any liability for any wells or
platforms referenced in this potential lawsuit," the companies
said in a statement. "Consequently, we believe the allegations and
potential legal action against KNOC and Samsung are misguided."
Taylor Energy did not return repeated calls seeking comment.
However, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and
Enforcement said the platform - knocked down by a mudslide during
Ivan - is owned by Taylor Energy. The agency also said it and the
Coast Guard are monitoring continuing efforts to shut down and
abandon the site.
In June 2010, Taylor Energy said the site has three oil
containment domes below the surface. The company said at the time
that it had been engaged in long-running, government-approved work
to plug and abandon the wells. It said domes had substantially
reduced seepage of oil since the platform collapsed during the
hurricane and the site was buried in mud.
Babich said the 60-day negotiating period would allow a
determination of ownership and potential liability.
"This is not a lawsuit. This is a notice. The letter is
intended to resolve any issues, if they can be resolved." he said.
"Basically, the Waterkeepers will follow up with this company and
make sure everyone is one the same page on who owns what."
In a liability action, it is typical for a plaintiff to name
multiple potential defendants to determine responsibility.
Hundreds of platforms and wells dot the Gulf, and releases of
oil are not uncommon.
The site in dispute is in about 500 feet of water - relatively
shallow when compared with the BP Macondo well, which blew out
about a mile below the surface of the Gulf.
The BP blowout last year killed 11 workers, resulted in the
destruction of the platform Deepwater Horizon and led to the
nation's worst offshore oil spill.