San Francisco: An American oil-rig owner was told on Wednesday that it can’t use claims of confidentiality to hide potentially important information about an ongoing undersea oil leak that began in 2004.
That opinion came down from federal magistrates judge Karen Wells Roby in New Orleans, Louisiana. Judge Roby refused Taylor Energy’s justification for denying access to emails and reports about a platform that toppled in the Gulf of Mexico during Hurricane Ivan of that year.
Environmental groups had filed a suit against Taylor Energy about the leak incident. The withheld communications, which cover the company’s failed efforts to stop the leak, could be evidence in that case. In resisting the suit, Taylor’s lawyers claimed that valuable trade secrets would be exposed if the ruling went against them.
Recently Associated Press journalists revealed evidence that the leak at the site of the toppled platform is worse than Taylor or government regulators had publicly reported. The ongoing leak, 11 years and counting, could continue for a century more if left unchecked, the stories said.
New Orleans-based Taylor Energy has played down the extent and environmental impact of the leak, claiming nothing can be done to completely eliminate the chronic oil slicks that often stretch for miles off the coast of Louisiana.
US federal magistrate judges are appointed to assist District Court judges in the performance of their duties.