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2011 Exxon Oil Spill in Yellowstone River Poses Threat

July 1, 2011: Exxon Mobil pipeline burst near the Yellowstone River near Billings, Montana. 20 miles of river upstream were affected by 1,000 barrels of crude oil.

Update: January, 2015: An Exxon Mobil Corp. pipeline broke near Laurel during flooding in July 2011, releasing 63,000 gallons of oil that washed up along an 85-mile stretch of riverbank.

Montana officials are trying to determine if oil could have been trapped by sediment and debris and settled into the riverbed.

Exxon Mobil is facing state and federal fines of up to $3.4 million from the spill. The company has said it spent $135 million on the cleanup and other work.

Montana and federal officials notified Exxon that they intend to seek damages for injuries to birds, fish and other natural resources from the 2011 spill. The company also is being asked to pay for long-term environmental studies and for lost opportunities for fishing and recreation during and since the cleanup.


The Yellowstone River oil spill affects are still being felt.

On July 1, 2011 an Exxon Mobil pipeline 12 inches in diameter burst near the Yellowstone River close to Billings, Mont. Nearly 20 miles of river upstream from Billings were affected by the spill of close to 1,000 barrels of crude oil as reported by Exxon Mobil. Over a month ago cleanup efforts began which were closely monitored by the Environmental Protection Agency in the best interest of public and natural health. However since the spill, odors have been noticed by individuals near the site of the pipe burst along with many other issues along the river.

Currently, the Exxon Mobil Company has over 1,000 personnel working on the river cleanup which has covered more than 6,500 acres of river and shoreline. At this point, Exxon Mobil has assumed all responsibility for the cleanup.

However, about a week after the July 1 spill, Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer came out critical of Exxon Mobil’s handling of the spill, specifically in relation to the release of data and information. Praise to Gov. Schweitzer, who is holding the oil company responsible for the current damages on the river in hopes of preventing future spills.

It is egregious to me that this spill has flown under the national radar. In such a sensitive ecosystem, it is easy for something like this oil spill to have drastic and lasting effects on a region. While the park remains unaffected at the moment, it is still threatened as residents and wildlife are affected upstream of the Yellowstone River. It is also frustrating to see that as the clean-up continues, progress appears to be slow.

Along with Gov. Schweitzer, Montanans and Yellowstone environmental enthusiasts must stay vigilant in Exxon Mobil’s cleanup of the river. If the spill continues to spread throughout the river, the price paid ecologically could be steep.

What are your thoughts on the spill? Tell us in the comments below.