On Saturday, an oil pipeline belonging to the Bridger Pipeline Company was breached, spilling oil into the Yellowstone River near Glendive.
In a statement, the company said that the spill occurred at about 10 AM in the morning and dumped between 300 and 1,200 barrels of oil in the river. At 42 gallons per barrel, that amounts to up to 50,400 gallons of oil entering the local watershed. Montana officials are reporting no initial threats to public safety and health.
The Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Environmental Quality are currently investigating the area of the spill, about nine miles upriver from Glendive, according to a report from the Billings Gazette.
Dave Parker, a spokesman for Governor Steve Bullock, has told the press that the spill site was frozen over, potentially reducing the environmental impact, though an unknown quantity of oil has contaminated the water.
“The governor is committed to making sure the river is cleaned up,” said Parker.
Bridger claims that it shut down the pipeline before 11 AM. Tad True, vice president of Bridger, has said, “Our primary concern is to minimize the environmental impact of the release and keep our responders safe as we clean up from this unfortunate incident.”
Dena Hoff, a farmer who lives along the Yellowstone River in Glendive, has called pipeline supervision “a real joke.” Hoff was living in the area when an ExxonMobil pipeline breached in July 2011 and spilled 63,000 gallons of oil into the river. Oil would later appear on 85 miles of riverbank and may still be buried in the sediment of the riverbed.
ExxonMobil would be fined $3.4 million by the state and federal governments and spend a reported $135 million on cleanup and related efforts.
According to The Guardian, federal law only requires regular inspections of pipelines carrying liquid fuel for less than 50 percent of all pipelines. Pipelines in “high consequence” areas, such as sensitive ecosystems or cities with high populations, are only inspected every five years.
Hoff’s experience with the ExxonMobil spill has led her to advocate against the Keystone XL, a controversial TransCanada pipeline that would carry oil sands from Alberta through the U.S. Oil sands are the heaviest type of crude and do not float in water, potentially endangering the Ogallala Aquifer, which stretches beneath eight states and would sit directly beneath the KXL’s planned route.
“Pipeline lore holds that there are two kinds of pipelines,” Hoff told The Guardian. “Those that are leaking and those that are going to leak.”