News / USA

    Yellowstone River Spill Raises Pipeline Safety Concerns

    Exxon Mobil has mobilized a command team that includes the US Environmental Protection Agency and various state and local groups and government officials.
    Exxon Mobil has mobilized a command team that includes the US Environmental Protection Agency and various state and local groups and government officials.

    Multimedia

    Audio
    Rosanne Skirble

    Environmentalists are pushing for tighter regulations after the rupture of an Exxon Mobil oil pipeline which runs beneath the Yellowstone River in Montana.  

    Before it was shut off, the burst pipe spilled as much as 1,000 barrels of crude oil - more than 160,000 liters- into the river, just downstream from famed Yellowstone National Park.  

    High-water conditions on the Yellowstone River make damage assessments risky, according to Claire Hassett, spokesperson for Exxon Mobil. “What we have learned so far has been hindered by the rapid flow of the river right now. It’s at historic water levels. It’s very turbulent.”

    Some 300 workers are beginning cleanup operations, with booms and special materials designed to soak up oil.
    Some 300 workers are beginning cleanup operations, with booms and special materials designed to soak up oil.

    The river is at flood stage, overflowing riverbanks and moving fast, carrying oil as much as 24 kilometers downstream into marshes, fields and yards.

    According to Hassett, local officials were so concerned about the heavy rains and rising waters, that they ordered a temporary shutdown to inspect the 20-year old pipe in May. The pipe is buried just below the Yellowstone riverbed.

    “And we did that," she says. "We conducted the same assessment that we conduct on all pipelines within our operation and we determined that it was safe to operate and again we don’t know what caused this leak so it would be premature to say the two are related.”

    The accident comes at a time of rising concern over oil and gas-pipeline safety across the United States.   

    According to a World Wildlife Federation report, pipeline accidents accounted for over 2,500 significant incidents, 161 fatalities and 576 injuries in the United States from 2000-2009.   

    The Natural Resources Defense Council has joined WWF and other environmental groups to call for tougher industry regulations.

    Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, who directs NRDC’s International Program, says the Yellowstone rupture underscores the dangers posed by the network of pipelines criss-crossing the nation’s waterways.

    Upstream of the oil spill, which is moving away from Yellowstone National Park. (NRDC)

    “Especially when they are running under some of our most precious river systems that are important not just for wildlife, but also for our communities," says Casey-Lefkowitz. "The Yellowstone River is critical for irrigation, for example, and so it serves the needs of a lot of farmers and communities along its path.”

    Andy Black is president and chief executive officer of the Association of Oil Pipe Lines, an industry group whose members include pipeline owners and operators.

    “We don’t want any pipeline accident to happen and every accident is a bad thing,” he says. "We have processes both within companies and at the associations to share learning and best practices and pursue the goal which is zero accidents.”

    Black adds that the already industry operates under strict federal and state government regulations. “I don’t see a need to overhaul the regulations. The regulations cover the major causes of pipeline failures, and we do not see any gaps.”

    Casey-Lefkowitz with the Natural Resources Defense Council wants those regulations overhauled.

    The burst pipe spilled as much as 1,000 barrels of crude oil - more than 160,000 liters- into the river, just downstream from famed Yellowstone National Park.
    The burst pipe spilled as much as 1,000 barrels of crude oil - more than 160,000 liters- into the river, just downstream from famed Yellowstone National Park.

    “Whereas the oil industry may find it business as usual to have a certain number of spills, it is really not acceptable, especially in this day and age," she says. "It shouldn’t be best practices to have spills in the Kalamazoo River in Michigan, in the Yellowstone River in Montana and potentially in the future in the Ogallala aquifer which would be crossed by this new proposed Keystone XL pipeline.”  

    The Ogallala aquifer is a major source of drinking and irrigation water for America’s central plains. Casey-Lefkowitz says the proposed Keystone XL tar-sands pipeline would carry heavier and more corrosive tarsand crude more than 3,200 kilometers from Canada across the central U.S. - and over the Ogalalla - to refineries in Texas.  

    “Ironically it would actually cross the Yellowstone River where the spill just happened,” says Casey-Lefkowitz.  

    Exxon Mobil's Hassett says the oil company takes full responsibility for the Yellowstone accident. “We have committed to be there as long as it takes to get it cleaned up.”

    NRDC’s Casey-Lefkowitz says that’s not enough. She views the incident along America’s longest undammed river as a wake-up call for communities across the United States to demand stricter government controls to protect the nation’s natural treasures.

    You May Like

    South Sudan Sends First Ever Official Olympic Team to Rio

    VOA caught up with Santino Kenyi, 16, one of three athletes who will compete in this year's summer games in Brazil

    Arrest of Malawi's 'Hyena' Man Highlights Clash of Ritual, Health and Women's Rights

    Ritual practice of deflowering young girls is blamed for spreading deadly AIDS virus

    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    VOA finds things Americans take for granted are special to foreigners

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora