The U.S. Department of Transportation recently issued a corrective action order to the ExxonMobil Pipeline Company that will require the company to re-bury the pipeline underneath the Yellowstone river bed to protect it from external damage and conduct a risk assessment on the Silvertip pipeline where it crosses any waterway. Exxon will then be required to submit a restart plan before operation can resume.
Early in the morning on July 2, residents of Laurel, Montana, were evacuated from their homes when the pipeline owned by ExxonMobil ruptured, spilling approximately 1,000 barrels of crude oil into the swollen Yellowstone River.
“The safety of our nation’s pipelines is a priority and the investigation into this incident is ongoing,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “It is our responsibility to ensure pipelines are safely delivering energy to U.S. households and businesses, and when companies are not living up to our safety standards, we will take action. We will continue to work with the EPA, while ensuring that those responsible are held accountable.”
This spring, in the wake of several major pipeline accidents, Secretary LaHood announced a pipeline safety action plan to immediately begin addressing concerns about the state of the nation’s aging pipeline infrastructure. Unfortunately, LaHood put the burden of identifying and repairing areas high risk pipeline completely in the hands of the U.S. pipeline owners and operators themselves.
(Sorry Sec. LaHood, but pretty-please asking the oil companies to make sure they don’t destroy our environment isn’t really enough. If the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico taught us anything, it’s that safety isn’t the first priority in the petroleum industry).
Secretary LaHood also proposed federal legislation to strengthen oversight on pipeline safety. The legislation would increase the maximum civil penalties for pipeline violations from $100,000 per day to $250,000 per day, and from $1 million for a series of violations to $2.5 million for a series of violations.
The proposal would also authorize the Department to close regulatory loopholes, strengthen risk management requirements, add more inspectors, and improve data reporting to help identify potential pipeline safety risks early.
Image Credit: Flickr – Neubie