Last month, GRN and Vanishing Earth flew with Southwings to check up on our coast and our Gulf. The unreported oil we found was routine, and routinely frustrating. We also witnessed the river building new land, giving new cause for hope.
With the eagle eyes of Vanishing Earth, we spotted a sheen by the Poydras Energy Platform in Breton Sound. Breton Sound has some of the highest density of oil spills in the United States, due to its rustbucket rigs.
Poydras Energy Partners
In this case, the company denied responsibility for the sheen.
With a simple "no", their word overrules our photograph. Without a liable party, there was no clean up of this oil. This kind of negligence, on the part of companies and the government, is 'business as usual.'
We spotted this sheen, and noted the time and location, and kept flying southwest to the Taylor sheen. Athough the company promises daily overflights, this hasn't been happening for months now. We wanted to compare the summer sheens with what happens at the site in winter. There seems to be a seasonal pattern.
When we arrive to the site, the oil shimmers from a single point. This is evidence that Taylor has been lying about the "residual oil" causing the sheen. We fly along the sheen route, noticing that the oil changes thickness as the sheen turns west. This creates a pool of brown, recoverable oil.
Taylor oil, brown oil, recoverable
This oil has serious impacts upon life in our Gulf, but the company won't accept responsibility for cleanup. For over 12 years to date, Taylor's pipes have leaked oil into the Gulf, and in 12 years, there has been no environmental assessment.
No one is watching this oil pollution, much less cleaning it up.
Taylor route as measurement
We fly to the end of the discrete sheen, and call it. Although we see more oil in the distance, the waves and winds are breaking it up. We can no longer identify a discrete pattern. But the pattern we have seen is 11 miles long. This could be 500 gallons of oil. The company pays nothing in fines, the company won't have to clean up the recoverable oil.
On the way home, we flew over the new land forming in Bay Uhlan. Bay Uhlan is becoming a bayou, as 80 acres of new mud flat are growing in the lee of a new branch of the Mississippi River. We were able to circle the site, and make a map of the land emerging from low water.
No where on Earth is there such a living landscape, where 100 acres of new land emerges from the sea. It's this dynamism that makes the River Delta so fertile, and the Gulf so biodiverse. But we have lost so much because companies refuse to clean up their mess, and our government refuses to uphold the law.
Scott Eustis is GRN's coastal wetland specialist