On September 3, 2015, Waterkeeper Alliance, Apalachicola Riverkeeper, and Louisiana Environmental Action Network, represented by the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic and the National Environmental Law Center, signed a settlement agreement with Taylor Energy. The environmental groups initiated the lawsuit three years ago in response to the lack of transparency surrounding the spill and Taylor Energy’s response efforts. This agreement signals the end of this veil of secrecy.
This settlement will make it easier for the public to obtain information about the oil leak. A key part of the settlement agreement is that Taylor Energy will be providing information about the spill since it started in 2004 and open public access to information on an ongoing basis. For the first time in more than a decade, Taylor Energy will publicly disclose what it has done to stop the oil leak. Taylor Energy will also be barred from continuing to broadly object to the release of information about the leak and its efforts to contain it.
Through this release of information, the environmental groups hope that it will bring much needed accountability to the response efforts, and reveal whether there are further efforts Taylor Energy can take to stop the leaks. The information will also be helpful in understanding the risks of offshore oil drilling and whether oil companies lack the ability to adequately respond to some leaks.
In addition to releasing information, Taylor Energy will be paying $400,000 to Supplemental Environmental Projects that will help study and mitigate the impacts of oil pollution on the Gulf of Mexico. $300,000 will be going to the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON), a research and education facility, for the purchase of hard assets such as boats and other research equipment. Another $100,000 will go to a oil pollution research grant that will be matched and administered by LUMCON.
The parties also agreed to petition the Federal Government, requesting that it establish a transparent and public process for responding to the leak. If the Federal Government does not grant the petition, Taylor Energy will instead host a public meeting on the leak to provide information and answer the public’s questions.
While this settlement ends the lawsuit between the environmental groups and Taylor Energy, it in no way impacts Taylor Energy’s continuing obligation to address the oil leak. The environmental groups will continue to monitor the progress towards a resolution that fully stops the flow of oil.