In this AP article by Matthew Brown via Yahoo! News, the U.S. Department of Transportation proposed $1.7 million in civil penalties against Exxon Mobil. Corp for a pipeline rupture that spilled approximately 63,000 gallons of crude oil into Montana’s Yellowstone river.
“The July 2011 rupture of the 12-inch pipeline under the river near Laurel fouled 70 miles of the Yellowstone River’s banks, killing fish and wildlife and prompting a massive, months-long cleanup.”
According to the DOT report, Exxon employees failed to close an upstream safety valve, which caused oil to run into the river for nearly an hour before noticed by pipeline controllers. The rupture of the 12 inch pipeline spread 70 miles of the Yellowstone’s banks, killing wildlife and fish. The cleanup was months long, conducted largely by Montana officials.
Exxon spokesperson Patrick Henretty said Exxon is disappointed in the government’s findings, citing a separate internal December investigative report by the company that determined Exxon took “reasonable precautions to address flooding.”
The spill fines have prompted new, stricter legislation on underground pipeline construction in the U.S. However, this accident and others have raised more socially responsible concern over oil giants like Exxon.
While Exxon has reportedly spent $135 million on its response to the spill, the question remains: What can environmentally staked companies like oil refineries do to aid the actual damage in affected areas like Montana? A $1.6 million settlement was reached earlier in this year between the state and Exxon over the company’s water pollution violations. A little over $1 million pales greatly in comparison to a corporation like Exxon, valued at $418.2 billion (according to Reuters).
Something is missing here. This Exxon spill exemplifies one of the biggest and most controversial issue with oil giants. “Large” settlements are not going to bring back the wildlife or national park revenues. Laurel will be repairing itself long after Exxon leaves Montana for pipeline work in another state. We need corporations like Exxon to set an example as socially and environmentally responsible companies, invested in not just the finances of oil spill cleanup. Exxon employees should be 100% involved in the restoration process, and understand the gravity of their mistakes. Our communities, rivers and parks don’t benefit directly from the politics of an oil spill; shouldn’t the most affected deserve more?