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DEQ Press Releases

Driscoll, Paul

Legal Order Finalized for 2015 Oil Spill in Yellowstone River near Glendive

HELENA – The Montana Department of Environmental Quality has finalized and issued an Administrative Order on Consent between DEQ and the Bridger Pipeline LLC for the Jan. 17, 2015 Bridger Poplar Pipeline Oil Discharge into the Yellowstone near Glendive, Mont.

 

The final Consent Order comes after a 30-day public comment period that ended Jan. 23, 2017. DEQ considered the comments received and responded to those comments in a Responsiveness Summary.

 

Under the Consent Order, Bridger will pay a $1 million civil penalty. To reach that total, Bridger will pay $200,000 to the State’s general fund and spend at least $800,000 on DEQ-approved Supplemental Environmental Projects. SEPs are projects that are above and beyond what is normally required and are designed to reduce pollution, benefit public health and/or restore and protect the environment. DEQ looks favorably on SEPs implemented within the spill-affected area.

 

“Oil pipeline spills cause significant impacts to nearby communities,” said DEQ Director Tom Livers. “Supplemental Environmental Projects are a great way for these communities to realize some benefit through projects that positively affect public health and the environment.”

 

For example, ExxonMobil paid for several SEPs following the Silvertip Pipeline spill in 2011. These included developing a spill response plan for the Yellowstone River, purchasing and deploying spill response equipment at communities along the river and training local responders in its use, redesigning and replacing the fish bypass at the Huntley Diversion, and contributing to establishing a channel migration easement program.

 

Bridger has completed all cleanup, monitoring and reclamation work required by DEQ and continues to pay DEQ’s limited costs for managing the site. The company has already paid the State’s past costs for overseeing the spill response. 

 

The Consent Order remains in effect until DEQ determines Bridger has fully completed the SEPs and any other outstanding requirements. 

 

DEQ has determined that the spill no longer poses an immediate risk to human health or the environment.

 

The Consent Order and Responsiveness Summary are available online at: http://deq.mt.gov/DEQAdmin/dir/postresponse/yellowstonespill2015 Copies are also available at DEQ’s Waste Management and Remediation Division Offices at 1225 Cedar Street in Helena. A copy can also be obtained by contacting Laura Alvey, Project Officer, DEQ, PO Box 200901, Helena, MT 59620-0901, lalvey@mt.gov or 406-444-0212.

 

Background

On Jan. 17, 2015, an estimated 758 barrels, or 31,800 gallons, of crude oil spilled into the Yellowstone River when Bridger’s Poplar Pipeline broke six miles upstream of Glendive. The City of Glendive gets its drinking water from the Yellowstone River, and dissolved crude oil contaminated the Glendive public water supply. DEQ issued a Health Advisory from January 20 through January 23 and during this time Bridger supplied free bottled water to the community.

 

The Yellowstone was covered from bank to bank with ice when the spill happened. Some of the oil was trapped in the ice at the release site, but much of the oil probably traveled downstream under the ice, broke down and diluted. In mid-March 2015, the river ice broke up and some oiled ice chunks were hung up on the river banks. Melting released oil into the river and deposited oil on the river bank in some locations. The most heavily oiled area was located immediately downstream of the I-94 bridge on the north side of Glendive. Bridger mopped up oil in this area with absorbent materials and later conducted confirmation sampling to verify that cleanup met DEQ cleanup levels. 

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