Pipeline rupture spills 45,000 gallons of diesel in US city

BILL, Mont. –

A diesel pipeline in Wyoming owned by a company being sued by federal prosecutors over previous spills in two other states has cracked and discharged, a state official said Friday. produces more than 45,000 gallons (205,000 liters) of fuel.

Joe Hunter, Emergency Response Coordinator for the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, said cleanup work was underway after the spill was discovered by the pipeline operator on July 27. Fuel has spilled onto a private farm near the small community of Sussex in east Wyoming, he said.

The contaminated soil is being dug and placed into a makeshift staging area, and it will be spread onto a nearby dirt road, where the fuel is expected to largely evaporate, Hunter said.

The line is operated by Bridger Pipeline, a subsidiary of the Casper-based True companies, according to an accident report submitted to the US Coast Guard National Response Center.

Initially, the company reported only 420 gallons (1,590 liters) had been spilled, but later adjusted the estimate to 45,150 gallons (205,250 liters), according to the National Response Center database.

Bridger Pipeline spokesman Bill Salvin said initial numbers were based on what company employees saw on the ground and reported immediately. Volume estimates increase as the site is excavated, he said.

True and its subsidiaries have a long history of oil spills. In May, federal prosecutors in Montana allege that Bridger Pipeline representatives concealed regulatory agency problems with a pipeline that burst beneath the Yellowstone River near Glendive in 2015. This rupture spewed more than 50,000 gallons (240,000 liters) of crude oil into the river and breached Glendive’s drinking water supply.

In North Dakota, federal prosecutors and the State Attorney General’s Office are pursuing environmental violations in tandem against the second True subsidiary responsible for the 2016 oil spill that spread more than 600,000 gallons (2.7 million liters) of crude oil, contaminating the Little Missouri River and a tributary.

Representatives for the companies have denied breaking pollution laws and denied claims that the problems with the Montana stream were hidden from federal regulators.

Hunter said the Wyoming spill was caused by a crack in a weld on the line, who did not know how long it had been leaking before it was discovered. The spilled fuel does not appear to have reached any waterways and no enforcement action on environmental violations has been planned, he said.

“I’m not saying there won’t be any activity but right now there won’t be” any coercive state action, Hunter said. “It’s an older pipeline and that’s one of those things that happens.”

The steel 6-inch (15 cm) diameter was installed by the original owner in 1968 and later acquired by Bridger Pipeline, Salvin said. It was last inspected in 2019, using a device that moves inside the pipe to look for holes, and no problems were detected, he said.

“Our focus is on minimizing the impact on the environment, and we will replace the soil and restore it as close to its original condition as possible,” Salvin said.

Kenneth Clarkson with the Pipeline Safety Trust, a Bellingham, Washington-based group that advocates for safer pipelines, said a thorough investigation into the cause of the spill was needed.

“It is frustrating to hear about another Bridger Pipeline LLC oil spill,” said Clarkson. “This spill of more than 45,000 gallons of diesel into rural Wyoming negatively impacts the environment, wildlife, and surrounding communities.”

Violations of pipeline safety regulations will be handled separately and under the jurisdiction of the Hazardous Materials and Pipeline Safety Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Salvin said the agency was notified of the spill, but officials did not immediately respond to questions from the Associated Press.

Bridger last year reached a $2 million settlement with the federal government and Montana for damage from the Yellowstone River spill. The company was previously fined $1 million by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality in this case.

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