Montana Citizens Demand Exxon Pay Entire Yellowstone River Oil Spill Fine

from Wildlife Promise

Photo of the Exxon Oil Spill on the Yellowstone River. Photo by Alexis Bonogofsky

Photo of the Exxon Oil Spill on the Yellowstone River. Photo by Alexis Bonogofsky

Citizens from Yellowstone County are asking Exxon to pay the full $1.7 million dollar fine amount levied by the US Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) for the 63,000-gallon crude oil spill into the Yellowstone River on July 2, 2011.  They are also asking Montana’s Congressional Delegation to support PHMSA’s fine amount.

A Facebook page dedicated to asking Exxon to pay its fine was started gathering over 340 likes in just a few days of existence. “Exxon, Pay Your Yellowstone Oil Spill Fine” can be found at www.facebook.com/PayYourFineExxon.

Screenshot of the Exxon, Pay Your Fine Facebook Page.

Screenshot of the Exxon, Pay Your Fine Facebook Page.

On May 13, Exxon Mobil Corp. challenged the $1.7 million in penalties proposed by PHMSA who faulted the oil company for the crude oil spill. The oil spill contaminated over 70 miles of riverbank, killing fish and wildlife and devastating landowners along the river.

“I believe that PHMSA’s proposed fine in the case of the Yellowstone River spill is fair,” said Eileen Morris of the Yellowstone Valley Citizens Council.  ”Exxon should be held accountable and fulfill their obligations.”

In a letter sent today, citizens are asking Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester and Representative Daines to support PHMSA’s fine against Exxon Mobil Corporation. PHMSA found that Exxon failed to address known seasonal flooding risks to the safety of its pipeline system, including excessive river scour and erosion, and to implement measures that would have mitigated the spill into the Yellowstone River putting thousands of people in danger and damaging the ecosystem. In addition, Exxon failed to establish written procedures for its staff to take prompt and effective action to protect the Silvertip pipeline from floods and other natural disasters, and to minimize the volume of oil released from any section along the pipeline’s system.

“Exxon failed to address known safety problems with the Silvertip Pipeline putting thousands of people at risk, damaging private property and killing fish and wildlife in the Yellowstone. PHMSA’s investigation into these issues was thorough and comprehensive. Exxon needs to take responsibility and pay their fine,” said Debra Bonogofsky, local landowner impacted by the spill.

IMG_2826It is in the best interest of all Montanans and the American public to ensure that our pipeline systems are as safe as possible. Operators, in this case Exxon, must be held accountable if they do not adhere to federal safety standards. The group of Montanans believe that PHMSA’s proposed fine in the case of the Yellowstone River spill is appropriate, defensible and necessary.

The Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011, signed into law last year by President Obama, doubled the maximum civil penalty amount PHMSA can issue to pipeline operators for violating pipeline safety regulations from $100,000 to $200,000 for each violation, and from $1,000,000 to $2,000,000 for a related series of violations.  The fine imposed by PHMSA easily falls within these regulations and justifications for the fines are comprehensive.

On July 17, a hearing will be held in Washington D.C. with PHMSA to address Exxon’s protests of the fine.