"An act of God under the legal definition"

A 14-year-long oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico verges on becoming one of the worst in U.S. history

Between 300 and 700 barrels of oil per day have been spewing from a site 12 miles off the Louisiana coast since 2004, when an oil-production platform owned by Taylor Energy sank in a mudslide triggered by Hurricane Ivan. Many of the wells have not been capped, and federal officials estimate that the spill could continue through this century. With no fix in sight, the Taylor offshore spill is threatening to overtake BP's Deepwater Horizon disaster as the largest ever. [...]

Hurricane Ivan unleashed 145 mph winds and waves that topped 70 feet as it roared into the Gulf. Deep underwater, the Category 4 storm shook loose tons of mud and buckled the platform. The avalanche sank the colossal structure and knocked it "170 meters down slope of its original location," researcher Sarah Josephine Harrison wrote in a postmortem of the incident. More than 620 barrels of crude oil stacked on its deck came tumbling down with it. The sleeves that conducted oil from its wells were mangled and ripped away. A mixture of steel and leaking oil was buried in 150 feet of mud. [...]

In 2010, six years after the oil leak started, scientists studying the BP spill realized something was amiss with the oil slicks they were seeing. "We were flying to monitor the BP disaster and we kept seeing these slicks, but they were nowhere near the BP spill," said Cynthia Sarthou, executive director of the Gulf Restoration Network, which monitors the water from boats and planes. [...]

Meanwhile, Taylor Energy was down to a single employee -- its president, William Pecue.

At a 2016 public forum in Baton Rouge, Pecue made the case for allowing the company to walk away from its obligation to clean up the mess. Taylor Energy had been sold to a joint venture of South Korean companies in 2008, the same year it started the $666 million trust. A third of the money had been spent on cleanup, and only a third of the leaking wells had been fixed. But Pecue wanted to recover $450 million, arguing the spill could not be contained.

"I can affirmatively say that we do believe this was an act of God under the legal definition," Pecue said. In other words, Taylor Energy had no control over the hurricane.

But Ivan was no freak storm.

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