Montana oil spill findings expected soon

Feb. 15, 2012 at 7:35 AM

HELENA, Mont., Feb. 15 (UPI) -- U.S. authorities said they're getting close to figuring out what caused a pipeline to rupture and spill oil into the Yellowstone River in Montana last year.

Exxon Mobil said it expected to pay more than $100 million in cleanup operations for the July rupture of the Silvertip oil pipeline near Billings, Mont. An estimated 1,200 barrels spilled from the pipeline.

Chris Hoidal, a regional director for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, was quoted by Yellowstone Public Radio as saying PHMSA expects to release a corrective action order against Exxon in the coming weeks.

It's our intention to close the order as soon as the metallurgical testing is done and we complete the accident investigation," he said.

Scouring of the pipeline, which was around 4 feet below the river bottom, is suspected of contributing to the rupture of Silvertip.

Richard Opper, director of the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, was quoted as saying there's no way to ensure accidents like Silvertip won't happen again.

"There are going to be accidents," he said. "There are also going to be things that we can do minimize the risk to make sure that the product that does flow -- underneath our landscape and across our rivers -- we can take steps to make sure that they're safe."

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