Thursday, July 7, 2011

PHMSA orders ExxonMobil to improve safety at ruptured Montana pipeline

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Federal authorities have ordered ExxonMobil to make safety improvements to a ruptured pipeline in Montana that caused 750 to 1,000 barrels of crude oil to gush into the Yellowstone River.

The cause of the pipeline break is still under investigation, authorities said.

The U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued a corrective action order to ExxonMobil Pipeline Co. that will require new safety measures along the Silvertip hazardous liquid pipeline, the federal agency said on July 5.

The order will require ExxonMobil to re-bury the pipeline underneath the river bed to protect it from external damage, the federal agency said in a statement. The oil company will also have to conduct a risk assessment on the pipeline where it crosses any waterway. Exxon will then need to submit a restart plan before operation can resume, officials said.

"The safety of our nation's pipelines is a priority and the investigation into this incident is ongoing," U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. "It is our responsibility to ensure pipelines are safely delivering energy to U.S. households and businesses, and when companies are not living up to our safety standards, we will take action. We will continue to work with the EPA, while ensuring that those responsible are held accountable."

The Silvertip Pipeline is a 12-inch pipeline about 69 miles long that carries crude oil from the Silvertip station in Elk Basin, Wy., to an ExxonMobil Refinery in Billings, Mont., federal officials said.

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