Oil Found on 60% of Yellowstone River Shoreline


Photo: Alexis Bonogofsky/National Wildlife Federation.

We've been talking pipelines lately -- the would-be tar sands-pumping Keystone XL in particular -- so let's check in on one that just ruptured. A busted Exxon pipeline recently loosed over 50,000 gallons of oil into the Yellowstone river, and you've probably read some of Mat's posts detailing the scope of the damage. Well, the latest update is in: oil from that pipeline has coated 60% of the Yellowstone River's shoreline. Businessweek reports:

The tally released Tuesday by Montana Department of Environmental Quality director Richard Opper offers one the first clear gauges of the scope of the spill after weeks of high water slowed access to fouled areas.

Just over 40 percent of shoreline inspected to date had light to very light oil. Seventeen percent had moderate oil. Just 1 percent was heavily contaminated.

The state says the July 1 spill, which came amid flooding from mountain snowmelt, dumped up to 1,200 barrels of oil, or 54,000 gallons, into the Yellowstone near Laurel. Exxon Mobil says it lost 1,000 barrels.

That latter part is important, because, as is par for the course, there were discrepancies between the oil company's estimate and the state's. We again see in action that beloved unwritten rule in the oil industry's corporate culture in which every company is mandated to low-ball its spill estimates. You'll certainly recall BP's infamous initial 1,000 barrel-day-estimate that ended up being closer to the 62,000 barrel-a-day ballpark. Good times.

Anyhow, the latest oil spill -- and they'll keep on coming! -- is yet another reminder that to say that these pipelines are fallible is an understatement of massive proportions. It should, if anything, serve as a cautionary example of the conservation dangers of allowing the tar sands Keystone XL pipeline to run through the nation.

More on the Yellowstone River Pipeline Spill
Yellowstone River Oil Spill Now Extends 150 Miles
The Aftermath of the Yellowstone River Oil Spill

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