Montana Governor: Exxon Mobil Not Upfront On Spill - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Montana Governor: Exxon Mobil Not Upfront On Spill

LAUREL, Montana - Exxon Mobil came under fire on Wednesday from Gov. Brian Schweitzer, who said the oil giant had assured Montana that any spill on the Yellowstone River could be shut off in a few minutes. Instead it took at least 48 minutes for that to happen when a pipeline ruptured on July 1, releasing an estimated 42,000 gallons of oil into the longest undammed river in the U.S.

We were told that there were automatic shut off valves and it's not possible that it could run even a couple of minutes into the river before it shut off," Schweitzer told MSNBC, recalling how the state ran through a mock oil spill drill on the river last year.

Once the spill happened, "Exxon Mobil said to begin with that it had only run for six minutes and that it was controlled out of Houston, Texas," he added. "That grew to 30 minutes and then it's unclear if they're now saying 48 or 58 minutes."

It was not immediately clear if the change could alter the estimate of crude released into a river famous for its fishing and vital to farmers for irrigation.

U.S. Department of Transportation records indicate the pipeline was not fully shut down for 56 minutes after the break occurred Friday near Laurel at 10:40 p.m. local time.

Exxon Mobil, which was also responsible for the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil disaster in Alaska, hasn't responded to Associated Press requests for a timeline.

The company had earlier also assured concerned regulators that the pipeline was buried deeply enough to avoid being damaged.

The cause of the pipeline failure remains under investigation. The prevailing theory is that the raging Yellowstone eroded the riverbed and exposed the line to damaging debris.

U.S. Department of Transportation documents show that after officials in Laurel, Mont., raised questions last year about erosion along the riverbank, Exxon Mobil in December surveyed its depth and said it was at least 5 to 8 feet beneath the riverbed.

When the river started to rise this spring and Laurel officials again said they were concerned, federal pipeline regulators contacted Exxon Mobil and were told by the company on June 1 that it was not at risk and was buried 12 feet beneath the riverbed.

Agency officials declined to comment on the claim, and a company spokesman did not respond immediately to questions from The Associated Press. >>>CLICK HERE TO READ MORE

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