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Mysterious Gulf Oil Slick Called ‘Substantial’: 10 Miles Long And Spreading Since Ida Hit

TOPLINE An oil spill that appears to be caused by a leak from a decommissioned pipeline off the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Ida swept through the area has raised questions about the climate resiliency of the system that delivers oil and gas throughout the country as well as the federal government’s decision to let fossil fuel companies abandon thousands of miles of old pipeline at the bottom of the sea, where they can break open by storms.


A researcher based at the University of Toronto was the first to notice where the oil spill seems to have come from, the New York Times reported after aerial images were released Wednesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  

The Times also reported that satellite imagery showed vessels cleaning up the spill, with two new ships joining the effort Saturday morning.

The oil spill causing the slick, which is longer than 10 miles and spreading, is still leaking into the Gulf, an industry nonprofit executive who is involved with the cleanup told the Times.

Scientists at NASA and an environmental consultant told the Times that they believe the oil is “substantial.”

The Coast Guard believes the oil spill is from an unused pipeline belonging to Talos Energy, an oil and gas company based in Houston.

Another oil leak appeared to be caused after water from Ida flooded a major oil refining plant owned by Phillips 66, the Associated Press reported.


Images of what appeared to be an oil slick were first reported Wednesday by the Associated Press, but it is unclear whether that slick is related to the one believed to be coming from the Talos pipeline, the Times reported.


18,000. That’s how many miles of unused oil and gas pipelines are laying on the ocean floor, according to an April report released by the Government Accountability Office. The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement does not require companies to clean the pipelines of oil and gas, and if they don’t, their risk of spilling pollutants into the ocean rises with each year, the GAO report said, as pipelines grow less resistant to mudslides, erosion, and corrosion from seawater.


It is unclear whether the oil spill was caused by damage to the pipeline from Hurricane Ida. Officials aren’t able to investigate in the water yet, a spokesman the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources told the AP, because they don’t have aircraft or boats ready yet. Past hurricanes have caused large amounts of oil to spill into the ocean, including the U.S.’ longest oil spill on record caused in 2004 by the destruction of an oil platform by Hurricane Ivan.

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