Federal prosecutors have said that a New Orleans-based company agreed to turn over a $ 432 million trust fund and pay $ 43 million to settle a lawsuit over cleaning up the country’s oldest oil spill. country.

AP Photo / Gerald Herbert, File

NEW ORLEANS (AP) – New Orleans-based oil company has agreed to turn over a $ 432 million clean-up trust fund and pay an additional $ 43 million to settle federal lawsuit over abandoned wells clean-up leaked since 2004, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.

“This settlement represents a significant down payment to deal with the impacts of the longest oil spill in US history,” said Nicole LeBoeuf, director of the National Ocean Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency, in a statement. US Department of Justice press.

Lawyers for Taylor Oil Co., who have agreed to drop three lawsuits challenging government cleanup orders and measures, did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment. As is common in such agreements, the proposed settlement says that Taylor admits no liability.

U.S. District Judge Greg Gerard Guidry will decide whether or not to approve the draft consent decree after a 40-day public comment period.

Sixteen wells off Louisiana have been leaking since September 2004, when an underwater mudslide caused by Hurricane Ivan toppled a Taylor production platform, knocking down and shattering a group of pipes. Taylor plugged nine wells but said he couldn’t plug the rest.

The settlement requires Taylor to drop his other lawsuits. In June, a federal Court of Appeal agreed that a district judge was correct in launching a trespassing lawsuit against a federal contractor who created a system to capture most of the oil.

This system has captured and removed more than 800,000 gallons (3 million liters) of oil since April 2019, Coast Guard Captain Will Watson, area commander in New Orleans, said in the statement.

“While it is a catalyst for beneficial environmental technological innovation, the damage to our ecosystem from this 17-year oil spill is unacceptable,” said Duane A. Evans, US attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

by Taylor website says it sold all of its oil and gas assets in 2008 and only exists to respond to the overturned platform. The company has agreed to return any remaining assets after the liquidation, the government said.

The trust fund was created to plug the wells, permanently decommission the installation and clean up the contaminated soil. One of Taylor’s lawsuits, filed in 2016, sought to recover the remaining money, affirming regulators had broken the deal requiring it to pay $ 666 million into the fund.

The company had also appealed the Coast Guard’s rejection of its claim for $ 353 million in cleanup costs.

The trust fund will be transferred to the Home Office as part of the settlement. The additional $ 43 million – all of the company’s remaining assets – is for civil penalties, travel costs and damage to natural resources, according to the press release.

It includes a civil fine of $ 15 million, $ 16.5 million for damage to natural resources and more than $ 12 million for Coast Guard removal costs.

The company may not interfere with the decommissioning work of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement or the containment and disposal of the Coast Guard oil, and will deliver all studies, reports and other documents relating to the site.

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