The Gulf of Mexico can't catch a break. Just a few short months after everyone (except Gulf Coast residents) forgot entirely about the BP spill, it gets hit with another one! Yes, a 30-mile oil slick has been spreading across the Gulf, right near Louisiana's Grand Isle, which was one of the hardest-hit places during that last spill. And since folks hardly seem to remember the BP spill itself, they're even less likely to remember that the AP discovered tens of thousands of unproducing wells -- like the one that's gushing out oil now -- many of which were improperly sealed, and were accidents waiting to happen. Well, looky here.
>> WATCH SLIDESHOW: Edward Burtynsky's Devastating "Oil"The 30-mile number is the official estimate -- though some fishermen reported that it stretched over 100 miles at points. And the oil is once again washing ashore, imperiling ecosystems, and threatening to put a dent in yet another shrimping season.
Leak sprung from abandoned well
And this time, the culprit isn't a dramatic explosion on an ominously-named oil rig. It was an improper, or malfunctioning well-capping of an underwater well that no longer produces oil.
The NRDC's Rocky Kristner explains:
The Times Picayune is reporting that a Houston based company, Anglo-Suisse Offshore Partners, has taken responsibility for leaking Louisiana crude from a non-producing well that has contaminated Louisiana coastal beaches and wetlands and created a slick that spread for miles offshore.
The newspaper earlier reported that state officials had fingered work being done to the Anglo-Suisse's non-producing oil well near Southwest Pass of the Mississippi River as the likely source, calling it a "well capping out of control."
Tens of thousands of abandoned oil wells litter the Gulf
If you'll recall, there are an estimated 27,000 abandoned oil wells spread out across the Gulf. 3,500 of those have been left 'temporarily' (read: poorly) sealed, often for decades. The oil company claims it was in the process of plugging the now-leaking well permanently, and that it was "surprised" so much oil escaped.
It's initial estimate of how much oil leaked out? 5 gallons. Ah, yes -- yet another entry into the rich legacy of oil companies comically underestimating their spills. You'd have to spread 5 gallons worth of oil pretty thin to get it to stretch out for 30 miles.
Offshore drilling is still dangerous business
The point is, we're continuing to blind ourselves to the dangers posed by offshore drilling -- nothing has seriously changed since the gulf, in terms of either the efficacy of our regulatory policies or our attitudes toward drilling. As such, this is going to keep happening, over and over. Another one of those 27,000 wells will pop. And even if this is a minor spill, and politicians will argue that it's a small price to pay to feed our oil addiction, I say it's yet another reminder that our drilling policies are reckless and out of control -- not only to the environment but to the livelihoods of the local people who depend on it.