DEQ Press Releases

Driscoll, Paul

DEQ approves ExxonMobil's completion of Silvertip environmental projects

HELENA - The Montana Department of Environmental Quality has determined that ExxonMobil Pipeline Company (EMPCo) successfully completed all Supplemental Environmental Projects associated with the 2011 Silvertip Pipeline incident near Laurel.

The SEPs included more than $1.3 million in projects aimed at enhancing natural river channel migration, emergency response capabilities, air quality monitoring, and fish habitat.

“These projects, and the teams that worked on them, made a lasting contribution not only to the local communities, but to the Yellowstone River,” said DEQ enforcement specialist Larry Alheim.

On July 1, 2011, Exxon Pipeline Company’s Silvertip pipeline breached near Laurel after a prolonged period of high runoff and flooding, releasing an estimated 1,500 barrels of crude oil into the Yellowstone River. In 2012, EMPCo and DEQ entered into an Administrative Order on Consent to resolve the violations caused by the release. As part of the AOC, EMPCo agreed to reimburse the state for costs associated with cleanup efforts and pay a civil penalty of $1.6 million. The $1.6 million penalty was addressed by a $300,000 cash penalty payment and SEPs worth $1.3 million.

The four SEPs certified complete by DEQ on March 16, 2015 were:

·        Emergency response planning, training, exercises and equipment purchases for first responders, including a grant to MSU Billings for emergency response curriculum enhancement; total approximate cost: $803,000

·        Purchase of vapor leak detection infrared camera for DEQ and training for DEQ staff; total approximate cost: $133,000

·        Grant funding to the Yellowstone Conservation District for reconstruction of a fish bypass at Huntley Dam on the Yellowstone River; total approximate cost: $172,190

·        Grant funding to Montana Aquatic Resources Services, Inc., for Yellowstone River channel migration easements; total approximate cost: $191,810

The four SEPs were proposed by several organizations, selected with input from DEQ and the public, and implemented in partnership with local sponsors to benefit the people and natural resources of the State of Montana and, specifically, the communities and resources within the Yellowstone River watershed that were most affected by the 2011 incident. 

The rationale for a SEP is to encourage responsible parties to take actions that reduce the risk of pollution, benefit public health, restore and protect the environment, and/or further promote environmental compliance. SEPs are also used as an incentive to obtain benefits that might not otherwise occur.

EMPCo has now satisfied the SEP portion and the $300,000 cash penalty payment portion of the AOC. DEQ and EMPCo are close to completing the remaining soil and sediment cleanup requirements of the AOC.

For further information about the four SEPs, please visit DEQ’s Silvertip Incident webpage:

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