Exxon’s Pipeline Problem


As we noted Tuesday, Montana is dealing with an oil spill in the Yellowstone River. But it looks like ExxonMobil hasn’t been exactly honest about its response to the spill. The Associated Press reports that the company took almost twice as long to respond to the spill in the river as it initially claimed:

Details about the company’s response to the Montana pipeline burst emerged late Tuesday as the Department of Transportation ordered the company bury the duct deeper beneath the riverbed, where it is buried 5 to 8 feet underground to deliver 40,000 barrels of oil a day to a refinery in Billings.

The federal agency’s records indicate the pipeline was not fully shut down for 56 minutes after the break occurred Friday near Laurel. That’s longer than the 30 minutes that company officials claimed Tuesday in a briefing with federal officials and Gov. Brian Schweitzer.

It also appears that the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA)—the division of the Department of Transportation that oversees pipelines—has found problems with the pipeline before, as Reuters reports:

After inspecting the pipeline in July 2009, PHMSA issued a warning letter to Exxon a year later about oil leaking from some of the valves on the pipeline.

The agency said the valves did not have a means for clearly indicating whether they were opened or closed. As a result “there was fresh crude oil on the soil immediately adjacent to the valves,” PHMSA said in its warning letter.

It also faulted Exxon for not following up in a timely manner on atmospheric corrosion issues that were identified during three years of corrosion surveys on the pipeline.

 

WE DON'T KNOW

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  • Kate Sheppard was a staff reporter in Mother Jones' Washington bureau from 2009 to 2013. She is now a senior reporter and the energy and environment editor at The Huffington Post. She can be reached by email at kate (dot) sheppard (at) huffingtonpost (dot) com and you can follow her on Twitter @kate_sheppard.