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Report: Oil spill in Gulf has been quietly spewing for 14 years, could be one of worst ever in US

An oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which has been leaking since 2004, could become one of the worst in U.S. history without action. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Since 2004, a secretive oil spill has cumulatively leaked millions of barrels into the Gulf of Mexico and could become one of the worst in U.S. history without action, according to The Washington Post.

What are the details?

During Hurricane Ivan, an oil-production platform owned by Taylor Energy sank roughly 12 miles off the coast of Louisiana. Since then, the Post reports, between 300 and 700 barrels of oil have been leaking from the surrounding underwater wells each day, and could rival one of the worse environmental disaster in U.S. history — the 168 million-gallon BP Deepwater Horizon spill.

While Taylor Energy has worked to stop the wells from leaking, the Post reports, "Many of the wells have not been capped, and federal officials estimate that the spill could continue through this century."

Taylor Energy has also worked to try to keep news of the spill from leaking to the public, according to a 2015 lawsuit by the Louisiana Environmental Action Network.

As part of a settlement agreement, Taylor Energy agreed to provide information about the spill and publicly disclose its efforts to stop the milelong oil slicks. Taylor refused to answer questions when approached by The Associated Press the same year, and again declined to comment to the Post.

In an independent 2015 investigation, the AP discovered that the leaks from the Taylor Energy wells were 20 times higher than the company had claimed just months before.

The Interior Department is currently fighting a lawsuit filed by the company, where Taylor Energy is asking for the return of roughly $450 million that remains in a government fund established with the feds to aid in recovering the firm's equipment and locating the leaking wells.

What's the background?

Taylor Energy was founded by the late Patrick F. Taylor, who passed away just a few months after the company's oil-production platform was toppled by Ivan in 2004. He had purchased the platform from BP in 1995, and at one point, he and his wife, Phyllis, were the richest couple in New Orleans, according to the Post.

The AP reported that Taylor Energy's sole purpose for existence is now to fight the oil spill fiasco, after selling off all its offshore leases and oil interests in 2008.

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