January 19, 2015

By Northern Plains Resource Council

An oil pipeline spill over the weekend is the second major spill on the Yellowstone River in 3-1/2 years. Some people say the large spill can be smelled in the air as well as Glendive, Montana, tap water which comes from the Yellowstone.

This latest spill only reinforces landowner concerns about having the proposed Keystone XL pipeline cross their property.

“People should understand how serious pipeline spills are because they don’t just affect the specific site where the spill happens. They affect everyone for miles downstream to municipal water users, irrigators, wildlife, recreationists, soil, water, air, everything,” said Dena Hoff, a Northern Plains Resource Council member and farmer/rancher whose land borders the Yellowstone River near where the spill occurred. “This spill is another example of why landowners don’t want the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. Pipelines don’t have a good track record. The Keystone XL would cross just upstream from my where my irrigation water comes from.

“We rural landowners are being asked to be the sacrificial lambs so that we can export oil to other countries. I hope tragedies like these prompt decision-makers to push for more renewable energy, such as solar and wind. I’ve never seen a solar panel spill deadly toxins into our water or onto our land, or pollute our air.”

A Bridger Pipeline spokesman said the break happened Saturday morning about 9 miles upstream from Glendive. The company, which transports Bakken crude, is confident that no more than 1,200 barrels — or 50,000 gallons — of oil spilled during the hour-long breach.

This spill is similar in size to another pipeline in the Yellowstone River that gained national attention. ExxonMobil’s Silvertip pipeline burst on July 1, 2011, below the Yellowstone riverbed near Laurel, Montana, during a flood. More than 1,500 barrels of oil, or 63,000 gallons, quickly spread downstream, affecting wildlife, parks, landowners, ag producers, and others. Hundreds of workers cleaned up the oily mess for months at a cost of $135 million, $1.6 million in state fines for Exxon, and a lawsuit against the oil company by landowners affected by the spill.

In the latest spill, an oil sheen was spotted some 60 miles downstream. Ice on the river has hampered early clean-up effort.

Some Glendive residents have reported being able to taste or smell the oil in their drinking water.

Northern Plains Resource Council is a grassroots conservation organization that organizes Montana citizens to protect our water quality, family farms and ranches, and our unique quality of life.

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