Prosecutors suspect the Wyoming company hid pipeline problems before the spill

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BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — U.S. prosecutors suspect a Wyoming firm of doubtless concealing issues with a pipeline that broke in 2015 and spilled greater than 50,000 gallons (240,000 liters) of crude into Montana’s Yellowstone River, fouling a small metropolis’s ingesting water provide, court docket filings present.

The federal government is suing Bridger Pipeline for violations of environmental legal guidelines within the 2015 spill, which got here after the road buried beneath the Yellowstone grew to become uncovered and broke when ice scoured the river backside close to Glendive, Montana. Prosecutors are pursuing related claims towards a associated firm over a 2016 spill in North Dakota that launched greater than 600,000 gallons (2.7 million liters) of crude.

The accidents got here a couple of years after an Exxon-Mobil oil pipeline broke beneath the Yellowstone throughout flooding. The spills helped put a nationwide concentrate on the nation’s getting older pipeline community, which has continued to undergo excessive profile accidents together with current spills in Louisiana and California.

A survey of Bridger’s pipeline on the corporate’s behalf in 2011 included a notice that the pipe was buried just one.5 ft (0.5 meters) beneath the ever-shifting river backside. That will have put it at heightened danger of breaking.

However after the spill, prosecutors alleged, firm representatives referenced a second survey once they instructed federal regulators that the pipeline had been buried at the least 7.9 ft (2.4 meters), giving it “enough cowl” to guard towards spills.

“This raises questions — which Bridger has but to reply — about whether or not Bridger hid materials info in regards to the situation of the crossing earlier than the Yellowstone spill,” assistant U.S. Lawyer Mark Elmer wrote in court docket paperwork.

Attorneys for Bridger rejected the allegations about conflicting surveys as “conspiracy theories.”

Pipeline firm spokesperson Invoice Salvin stated the federal government misunderstood the surveys.

“There was enough depth of canopy throughout the complete crossing,” Salvin stated. “We predict the federal government is looking for one thing that’s simply not there.”

Federal prosecutors final month filed a lawsuit with related claims towards a sister firm, Belle Fourche Pipeline, over the 2016 North Dakota spill that contaminated the Little Missouri River and a tributary.

Each pipeline companies are a part of Casper, Wyoming-based True Corporations, which operates 1,800 miles (2,900 kilometers) of line in Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming.

Prosecutors allege the spills violated the Clear Water Act and are topic to penalties of as much as $6.6 million within the Montana case and as much as $89.5 million within the North Dakota case.

Attorneys for Belle Fourche, of their preliminary response to the federal lawsuit, on Thursday denied any violations of air pollution legal guidelines. A extra detailed response is predicted at a later date.

The authorized challenges over the spills come as Bridger seeks to construct a brand new pipeline from western North Dakota to southeastern Montana. North Dakota Public Service Fee in Could accredited a part of the road.

Bridger final 12 months reached a $2 million settlement with the federal authorities and Montana over damages from the Yellowstone River spill. The corporate was beforehand fined $1 million within the case by the Montana Division of Environmental High quality.

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