A Wyoming oil company has agreed to pay a $2 million settlement for damage to the Yellowstone River following an oil spill upstream from Glendive, Montana, according to court documents filed Wednesday.
Bridger Pipeline LLC agreed to settle a civil complaint filed by the United States and Montana to help pay for the harm inflicted on the longest, free-flowing river in the Lower 48 states by the release of 31,000 gallons of crude oil from a pipeline that ruptured in 2015.
“This settlement holds Bridger Pipeline accountable for its oil spill and provides funds to restore damage caused to the Yellowstone River’s waters, fisheries, birds and riparian habitat, ecosystems and related human activities,” U.S. Attorney Leif M. Johnson said in a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice.
In January 2015, the pipeline running beneath the Yellowstone River about 6.5 miles upstream from Glendive cracked at a weld. The pipeline, 12 inches in diameter and buried about eight feet under the river, carried oil from the Bakken region of Montana and North Dakota, The Billings Gazette previously reported.
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Soon after, residents in Glendive found their water to be undrinkable, and switched to bottled water. A subsequent investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency found benzene, a known carcinogen, at more than three times the limit for long-term exposure risk present in Glendive’s drinking water. Oil sheens were seen as far away as Williston, North Dakota, and the ice on the surface of the river hindered containment efforts.
Bridger Pipeline, based out of Casper, has previously paid for the spill response conducted by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality. The company paid a $1 million civil penalty to the state, along with $100,000 for monitoring equipment at the Glendive water treatment plant.
A consent decree, filed along with the civil lawsuit Wednesday, requires Bridger Pipeline to pay $2 million in damage claims. The bulk of those funds, about $1.8 million, will be managed by the State of Montana, specifically for restoration efforts determined by federal and state trustees. The remaining settlement amount will go to the U.S. Department of the Interior.
The proposed consent decree will undergo a 30-day public comment period, along with a court review and approval. A copy of the settlement and proposed consent decree can be viewed at https://www.justice.gov/enrd/consent-decrees.
In July 2011, The Billings Gazette reported that a crack in a pipeline below the Yellowstone River near Laurel, Montana, resulted in 63,000 gallons of leaked oil seeping downstream for about 80 miles. Exxon Mobil Corp. eventually paid a $12 million settlement to cover the damages.