Exxon Mobil challenges Yellowstone River spill fines

Posted: May 17, 2013

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Yellowstone River oil

Exxon Mobil Corp. is challenging $1.7 million in penalties for a 63,000-gallon crude oil spill in the Yellowstone River, according to documents.

The penalties were proposed by the Transportation Department's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, which cited bad decisions by the company before and after the spill. The penalties included the failure of employees to close a safety valve, which could have reduced the spill's size, investigators said.

But Exxon Mobil said its workers responded appropriately to reports of the pipeline's erosion. It checked to make sure the line was still buried beneath the riverbed and turned off the line twice.

"We respectfully request that all of these allegations, including precautionary shutdowns of the line on two occasions, reflect the appropriate response of [Exxon] rather than suggest that the company as not aware or involved with local conditions and concerns," Exxon Mobil's attorneys wrote.

The July 2011 spill contaminated 70 miles of the Yellowstone River near Laurel, Mont. Exxon has spent $135 million on cleanup and repairs.

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