North Dakota, Feds Sue Pipeline Companies Over Oil Spills

BISMARCK, ND (KFYR) — The state of North Dakota and the federal government are suing two pipeline companies over oil spills in 2015 and 2016.

They are seeking civil penalties against Bridger Pipeline and Belle Fourche Pipeline for spills on the Yellowstone River in 2015 and Ash Coulee Creek in Billings County in 2016. The state is also seeking reimbursement for creek cleanup costs Ash Coulee.

Court documents argue that Belle Fourche failed to consider the risk of a slope failure and did not identify the leak for days until it was reported by a rancher. A spokesperson for the companies said they were disappointed that a settlement could not be reached.

“We have been in talks with the government for several years and thought we were making good progress, but unfortunately, here we are,” said Bill Salvin, spokesman for Bridger and Belle Fourche Pipeline.

More than 14,000 barrels (600,000 gallons) of oil leaked from the creek and Little Missouri River in December 2016. Cleanup efforts continue to this day.

“At this point, the focus is on the ground immediately adjacent to the creek where there is still crude oil in the ground and which may also impact the creek,” said Karl Rockeman, Division Manager of the water quality of the NDDEQ.

The plaintiffs claim that the crude oil continues to affect and contaminate surface water, groundwater and soil at and near the site. Salvin says the monthly tests refute that.

“All the results we have show that there is no continuous contamination in the river. All the results we have show that we are below all the levels set by the government,” Salvin said.

The federal government is also seeking penalties for a spill on the Yellowstone River near Glendive in 2015, which led Dawson County officials to issue a “do not drink” advisory for nearly a week.

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