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environmental disasters
November 20, 2018

Taylor Energy Co. has been ordered by the Coast Guard to do something about its damaged oil platform that for the last 14 years has been leaking thousands of gallons a day into the Gulf of Mexico.

The order came on Oct. 23, following The Washington Post's report that the spill was larger than the Interior Department estimated. In 2004, Hurricane Ivan destroyed Taylor Energy's former platform 12 miles off the coast of Louisiana. A Justice Department analysis found that since then, 10,500 to 29,000 gallons of oil a day have leaked into the Gulf. Previously, the government went off of reports by contractors hired by Taylor Energy, which claimed anywhere from 42 to 2,300 gallons leaked per day.

The Coast Guard's order calls for Taylor Energy to "institute a ... system to capture, contain, and remove oil" from the site or pay a daily $40,000 fine for failing to comply, the Post reports. Taylor has plugged nine of the 28 wells at the platform, but argues that because the wells are buried under 100 feet of mud, they can't be the cause of the oil spill. Catherine Garcia

January 25, 2016

It's estimated that the natural gas leak in Porter Ranch, California, has released the equivalent of 2.1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide since it was reported in October.

That's more greenhouse gas than 44,000 cars emit in one year, the Los Angeles Times reports. The leak is from a failed well at the Southern California Gas Company's Aliso Canyon storage facility, and has caused thousands of Porter Ranch residents to move. In November, Stephen Conley, a scientist at UC Davis, flew over Porter Ranch for the first time, finding methane levels at 50 parts per million, an amount so high, he told the Times, he had to double-check his instruments. "This is probably 20 times bigger than anything else we've measured," he said.

So much methane is being released that it's expected to boost global warming, experts say, and it will remain in the atmosphere even after the leak is stopped. The longer the leak stays open, the more difficult it will be for the state to reach its goal of reducing emissions of methane and other pollutants by 40 percent or more by 2030. "It's really moving us in the wrong direction," said John Herner of California's Air Resources Board. A spokesperson for SoCal Gas told the Times the reservoir has gone from being 90 percent full before the leak to at most 37 percent full on Jan. 10. The company does not have an estimate of the amount of gas released and won't be able to get one until the leak is stopped; it's believed that a relief well being dug now to seal off the damaged one will be completed by late February. Catherine Garcia

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