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

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

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.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid