US Coast Guard investigating 350 reports of oil spills after Ida

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The United States Coast Guard has said it investigating reports of 350 incidents of oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico in the wake of Hurricane Ida.

The announcement on Monday came shortly before President Joe Biden is set to tour areas of New York and New Jersey ravaged by remnants of the storm, which killed more than 60 people after making landfall in Louisiana on August 29.

In a statement, the Coast Guard said it has been conducting flyovers off the coast of Louisiana looking for spills to provide information for federal, state and local authorities to dispatch clean up crews.

During flights on Sunday, the Coast Guard said it found evidence of a new leak from an offshore well and reported another leak, responsible for a kilometres-long streak of oil, was no longer active.

The investigated leaks include a spill in the Bay Marchand oil field, which was being investigated by divers sent by the offshore oil producer Talos Energy Inc. The company told the Reuters news agency it no longer conducts production operations in the area.

The company has said old pipelines damaged by the storm were apparently to blame for the leak, which had largely abated.

Meanwhile, an offshore well belonging to S2 Energy was discharging oil about eight kilometres (five miles) away from the Bay Marchand site, the Coast Guard said.

The company later reported it had “secured the wellhead and it is no longer discharging oil”, the Coast Guard said.

Oil and natural gas firms in the Gulf of Mexico had cut most of their output shortly before Ida hit.

On Monday, about 88 percent of offshore crude oil production in the Gulf of Mexico remained halted following the storm, Reuters reported.

The Gulf of Mexico accounts for about 15 percent of crude oil production and 5 percent of offshore natural gas production in the US. About half of the US’s petroleum and natural gas refining capacity is located along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

In 2010, an explosion at the Deepwater Horizon oil rig about 66 kilometres (41 miles) off the coast of Louisiana, sank the rig, pumping millions of barrels into the Gulf of Mexico for 87 days, causing the largest marine oil spill in history and setting off an environmental catastrophe.

On Monday, the New Orleans-based NOLA news site reported the Coast Guard had begun setting up a pollution response team in Baton Rouge as a result of spills caused by Ida.

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