Officials Believe Pipeline Operator Concealed Problems Following Leak

Published on: 15 July 2022
by KnowESG
051121-pipeline-scaled

According to court documents, U.S. prosecutors suspect a Wyoming company hid concerns about a pipeline that broke in 2015 and leaked more than 50,000 gallons of crude into Montana's Yellowstone River, contaminating a small city's drinking water supply.

The government is suing Bridger Pipeline for violations of environmental regulations in the 2015 spill, which occurred after ice erosion in Glendive, Montana, exposed and ruptured a pipe buried beneath the Yellowstone River.

The catastrophe occurred a few years after an Exxon-Mobil pipeline ruptured near Billings, Montana. The spills helped bring national attention to the nation's outdated pipeline network, which has continued to experience high-profile mishaps, such as the recent spills in Louisiana and California.

In 2011, a company-commissioned examination of Bridger's pipeline revealed that the pipe was buried only 1.5 feet into the ever-changing riverbed. That would have increased the likelihood of its breaking.

But after the spill, prosecutors alleged, company representatives, referenced a second survey when they told federal regulators that the pipeline had been buried at least 7.9 feet, giving it “adequate cover” to protect against spills.

“This raises questions—which Bridger has yet to answer—about whether Bridger concealed material facts about the condition of the crossing before the Yellowstone spill,” assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Elmer wrote in court documents.

Federal prosecutors are pursuing a second prosecution against Belle Fourche Pipeline for a 2016 disaster in North Dakota that contaminated the Little Missouri River and a tributary with more than 600,000 gallons of crude oil.

True Companies, headquartered in Casper, Wyoming, operates 1,800 miles (2,900 kilometres) of pipeline in Montana, North Dakota, and Wyoming.

According to the prosecution, the spills violated the Clean Water Act and are liable to fines of up to $6.6 million in Montana and up to $89.5 million in North Dakota.

Bridger is attempting to construct a new pipeline from the western region of North Dakota to the southeastern region of Montana. Last month, the North Dakota Public Service Commission approved a portion of the line.

Bridger negotiated a $2 million settlement with the federal government and the state of Montana for the Yellowstone River spill last year. The company was previously penalised by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality for $1 million for the incident.

Source: Minot Daily News

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