Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Exxon oil spill on Yellowstone River disrupts farms

Governor Brian Schweitzer vowed on Tuesday to cling to Exxon Mobil like "the smell on a skunk" for as long as it takes to get the company to clean up a weekend oil spill that fouled an otherwise pristine stretch of the Yellowstone River in Montana.

A 12-inch Exxon pipeline ruptured on Friday night about 150 miles downstream from Yellowstone National Park near the town of Laurel, Montana, southwest of Billings, dumping up to 1,000 barrels, or 42,000 gallons, of crude oil into the flood-swollen river.

Toxic fumes from the oil overcame a number of people who reported breathing problems and dizziness and were taken to local hospitals. But state and federal officials on Tuesday said they lacked a tally of health problems or the number of riverside homes that were evacuated after the accident.

The U.S. Department of Transportation on Tuesday ordered Exxon to re-bury the pipeline underneath the Yellowstone river bed to protect it and conduct a risk assessment on the 69-mile long pipeline where it crosses any waterway. It must then submit a restart plan before operations can resume.

"The investigation into this incident is ongoing," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "When companies are not living up to our safety standards, we will take action. We will continue to work with the EPA, while ensuring that those responsible are held accountable."

Exxon officials said shoreline oil contamination extended at least 25 miles downstream but appeared to be confined mostly to scattered pockets along the river. (read more)