The Yellowstone River oil spill continues to spread (both physically and metaphorically) with more and more landowners reporting their property has been contaminated with oil from the ruptured ExxonMobil Silvertip pipeline and questions raised about how much oil would have spilled if a similar leaked occurred on the controversial proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
The Democracy Now! video embedded above gives a good run down of all this, but here are two of the top-line points:
- Reports from non-Exxon sources now have evidence of oil spreading over 240 miles from the site of leak. Nearly reaching the North Dakota border.
- If this spill had happened in the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would be carrying tar sands oil from Alberta and would be about 20 times the capacity of this one, it would have spilled nearly 1,000,000 gallons of oil in the same time period.
As for the spread of the oil, the 240 mile figure comes from the US Department of Transportation, which has been conducting surveillance flights. Exxon still maintains that it will only confirm that oil deposits have been found 25 miles downstream.
Beyond these effects of the oil spill, the political and regulatory question is whether current standards are sufficient. NRDC Switchboard says no:
Here's the problem - Exxon was living up to the Department of Transportation's (DOT) safety standards. True, Exxon's decision to build an unprotected crude pipeline only 5 to 8 feet below a flood prone river appears to have been imprudent. Exxon's decision to restart the pipeline in May despite heavy flooding was foolish. However, the real story is that this string of reckless decisions was permitted by both our pipeline safety regulations and the regulators who enforce them.
Bringing it back to Keystone XL: NRDC points out that the operator of that pipeline (should civil disobedience against it fail...), Transcanada, has an "abysmal" safety record, with its first tar sands pipeline having 33 leaks in the US and Canada in just one year of operation. Yes, three-three.
If you're interested in following ExxonMobil's official statements on this: ExxonMobil Pipeline Company: Yellowstone River Response and Cleanup
More on Oil Spills
Yellowstone River Oil Spill Now Extends 150 Miles Downstream
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