No Reassurance on Pipeline Safety

Three weeks after a broken Exxon Mobil pipeline spilled a thousand barrels of oil into the Yellowstone River, federal officials remain unsure how many pipelines carry hazardous fuels across the nation's rivers and streams, nor can they say how deeply those pipelines are buried.

Federal pipeline safety officials gave the Associated Press a preliminary estimate of 35,000 river, stream and lake crossings within the country’s half-million-mile network of natural gas and hazardous liquid transmission lines.  But officials say the federal government still can’t pinpoint exactly where the crossings are and has no information about additional spots where smaller gas distribution and gathering pipelines traverse streams.

Officials say a review of pipeline crossings in the Missouri River basin in Montana and Wyoming is under way and there are plans to expand that effort nationwide.

Flooding rivers can scour river bottoms and expose pipelines to powerful water currents and damaging debris.  That’s the prevailing theory of what happened to ExxonMobil in Montana, although the investigation into the spill is not complete.

Lawmakers of both parties are raising alarms that another spill could be imminent unless the government steps up oversight of the pipeline industry.

Bio photo of Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Business Reporter

Andrew Schneider joined KUHF in January 2011, after more than a decade as a print reporter for The Kiplinger Letter...