Talos says its operations were not the source of the oil. The company said it had been contacted because it was a prior lessee of the block where the leak was, although it had stopped production there in 2017 and had isolated its wells and removed all its infrastructure.
So who is responsible for the spill? That has yet to be determined.
And that shouldn’t be a big surprise, given the number of old pipelines and abandoned wells in the Gulf of Mexico, according to Wilma Subra, a chemist and technical adviser at the nonprofit Louisiana Environmental Action Network.
“There are lots of pipelines out there, lots of old pipelines as well as newer ones, and ones like Talos has gotten rid of over the years,” she said.
The bureau “does not have a robust oversight process for ensuring the integrity of approximately 8,600 miles of active offshore oil and gas pipelines located on the seafloor of the Gulf of Mexico,” nor does it have “robust process to address the environmental and safety risks posed by leaving decommissioned pipelines in place on the seafloor.”
CNN reached out to the BSEE on Tuesday but did not immediately hear back.
In a letter to the GAO in response to its report and attached as an appendix to it, a Department of the Interior official wrote that the “Department generally agrees with the report findings.”
“BSEE has begun to implement GAO’s recommendation to further develop, finalize, and implement updated pipeline regulations to address long-standing limitations regarding its ability to (1) ensure active pipeline integreity and (2) address safety and environmental risks associated with decommissioning,” wrote Laura Daniel-Davis, principal deputy assistant secretary, Land and Mineral Management, at the US Department of the Interior.
Members of the US Coast Guard National Strike Force who flew over the Bay Marchand area Sunday saw no visible discharge of oil in the area, according to Lt. John Edwards.
“What was observed was an unrecoverable, dissipating rainbow sheen that was approximately 11 miles in length,” Edwards said in an email to CNN. The source of the discharge is unknown, though, he said.
Talos said it observed pipelines owned by other companies that were likely impacted by Ida, including a 12-inch pipe that it says appeared to the source of the release.
“Talos conducted both physical inspections and subsea sonar scans that confirmed Talos assets were not the source or cause of the release,” the company said.
Finding the responsible party will be part of the investigation, Coast Guard Petty Officer Gabriel Wisdom said.
Talos said it is working with the Coast Guard and other state and federal agencies to determine ownership of the damaged pipeline and to organize a coordinated response to the spill.
In the meantime, the USCG said it is “prioritizing” approximately 350 oil spill “incidents for further investigation by state, local, and federal authorities” in the wake of Hurricane Ida, which hit the gulf coast as a powerful Category 4 storm.
Those are incidents reported by the general public and range from “minor to potentially notable pollution reporting,” Wisdom said.
While they could be duplicate reports of the same thing, “right now we treat them all individually,” and they will all be inspected, he said.
For Subra, the Bay Marchand leak is an example of “the potential out there to happen every time there is a hurricane or even a weather front that disrupts the Gulf and disrupts the waters near the bottom” because of the numerous old pipelines and abandoned wells there, many that haven’t been plugged, she said.
The BSEE said Tuesday that its hurricane response team “continues to monitor offshore oil and gas operators in the Gulf as they return to platforms and rigs after the storm.”
Read More: An oil leak off the coast of Louisiana spread for miles and no one knows who is responsible