Exxon Yellowstone Mess

Exxon Mobil is expecting to incur costs running up to some $135 million from an oil pipeline break underneath Montana’s Yellowstone River which triggered a massive effort to limit damages to the waterway. The cost figure is more than triple an earlier estimate and includes for the first time the expense of replacing the section of broken pipeline with a new one that will ne buried deeper beneath the river.

The firm’s 12-inch Silvertip crude oil pipeline shattered on July 1 during a period of severe flooding. In the 56 minutes it took Exxon Mobil to seal off the line, some 42,000 gallons of petrol leaked into the river near Laurel, spoiling dozens of miles of riverbank, many islands and swaths of low-lying cropland with crude oil. More than 1,000 workers were involved in the cleanup effort.
Work to remove the damaged pipeline is expected to take just a few weeks.

An Exxon Mobil spokeswoman Claire Hassett told Associated Press:

“This estimate includes costs for overall emergency response and cleanup efforts including personnel, equipment, landowner claims and projects associated with the restart of the pipeline such as the horizontal directional drill…”

“Horizontal directional drill” alludes to the process the company utilized to bore a new route for the pipeline several feet beneath the riverbed. This move was mandated by federal pipeline regulators. The original pipeline was buried just a few feet beneath the riverbed. State and federal officials have speculated that summer flooding scoured the riverbed and even left the pipe exposed to damaging debris as well as the sheer force of the rushing river.

A federal lawsuit from landowners around the river who accuse the firm of a “haphazard, sloppy” cleanup job is being filed against Exxon Mobil. The lawsuit also claims that Exxon failed to heed warnings from local officials who raised concerns about Silvertip months before the accident happened.

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