Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Montana landowners upset with TransCanada's Bison Pipeline restoration work

BILLINGS, Mont. - TransCanada's recently installed Bison natural gas pipeline has big problems along parts of its 97-mile route through southeastern Montana.

How serious depends on who's talking - the landowners or TransCanada.

A spokesman for the Calgary-based company maintains that collapses of the pipeline trench are isolated and fixable.

Landowners interviewed last week said trenches are falling in around them because of hurried construction and flawed attempts to backfill the pipeline trench. Past experience, they say, has them worried about promises of repairs.

Wide fissures, some three feet deep, have opened directly above the 30-inch, high-pressure pipeline that began delivering natural gas from Wyoming's Powder River Basin to the Northern Border Pipeline in North Dakota on Jan. 14.

"If you got down there and scraped away a few inches, you'd see green pipe," said Wade Klauzer, who ranches on 3,500 acres in Carter County.

He saw exposed pipeline earlier this spring, he said. But continued sloughing of soil from the walls of the collapsing trench covered the pipe by the time he looked again a few days later.

He estimated one of the gaping holes through his pasture at 480 feet long.

"Basically it's a land mine," said the 54-year-old cowman. "The public needs to know about TransCanada."

David Dodson, spokesman for TransCanada, said the company is aware of the problems and they will be fixed as soon as weather, ground conditions and environmental restrictions permit.

In general, there were few issues with the 301-mile-long pipeline, and TransCanada was not hearing a lot of complaints except in the area where the pipeline enters Montana, he said. Subsidences are expected on projects constructed in winter, Dodson said.

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