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If you build it, it will leak

You would think that a company with record profits of $11 billion in the first quarter of this year and $45 billion in 2008, a company that can afford to pay its CEO $29 million last year, could afford to put a few million into its aging infrastructure. ExxonMobil Corporation has a problem keeping it’s products out of our waterways. On the same day that the oil giant spilled 42,000 gallons of oil into the Yellowstone River, a Maryland judge awarded plaintiffs $1.5 billion for a 26,000 gallon Exxon gasoline spill in 2006. That’s even more than the $900 million the 10-million gallon Exxon Valdez spill cost ’em. I guess it’s cheaper to  pay the fines than to make the pipelines safe.  That ain’t the first and won’t be the last. Here’s the short list, there are many more.

  • 1972 – The 10-inch Yellowstone Pipeline that originates in Billings spilled an “unknown quantity” of diesel fuel into the Clark Fork River near Clinton. “The spill was not pinpointed until a farmer noticed the light oil on the surface of the river.”
  • 1979 – A 40,000 gallon oil slick spread down the Yellowstone River for more than a 100 miles from a spill at the Billings Exxon refinery. A 15-mile long slick was reported on the river near Hysham. Sound familiar?
  • 1983 – Yellowtone Pipeline spilled 20,000 gallons of unleaded gasoline into Wolf Lodge Creek near Cour d’Alene when the line was struck by front-end loader run by a private contractor.
  • 1990 – New Jersey A 500,000 gallon heating oil spill found it’s way into the Arthur Kill separating New Jersey and Staten Island. Exxon initially estimated the spill at 5,000 gallons.
  • 2007 – An explosion and fire at the Exxon refinery in Billings sent flames more than 100 feet into the air. “The fire began at the refinery after piping leaked hydrogen and hydrocarbon gases that ignited and caused the large explosion and fireball.”

ExxonMobil initially said that the current damage was limited to a ten mile stretch of the Yellowstone below the refinery.

There is “very little soiling” of the river banks beyond the 10-mile mark, Gary Pruessing, president of Exxon Mobil Pipeline Co., said at a news conference telecast from Billings.

Somehow, the company is now saying that those remarks were “misunderstood”, but they have now expanded the scope of their cleanup efforts.

“We’re not limiting the scope of our cleanup to the immediate site,” Pruessing said at a news conference along the river near Laurel, as crews mopped up oil in the background. “We are not trying to suggest in any way that that’s the limit of exposure.”

TransCanada is now worried that this small mishap will sour Montanans on the prospect of building a new 300-mile, 36-inch crude oil pipeline through the state and across both  the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers.

“I think that Montana had in the past not really been too concerned about the Keystone XL pipeline, and I think this is really going to change that,” said Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s international program.

Hmmm… ya think? Check out the 2010 report “Assault on America” by the National Wildlife Federation for lots more spill  information.


One Response

  1. […] Then the Button Valley Bugle publishes a history of some of Exxon’s Montana spills. […]

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