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What oil spill? Company responsible for Yellowstone River spill gets Bakken pipeline approval

The pipeline company responsible for the oil spills in the Yellowstone River and California Coast earlier this year has been granted permission from North Dakota state regulators to build a new crude oil pipeline in the southwest region of the state, reports the Forum News Service (FNS).

An in-depth discussion was held with Bridger Pipeline LLC and the Public Service Commission’s three-member panel regarding the January 17 pipeline rupture. The spill released an estimated 30,000 gallons of crude into the Yellowstone River and temporarily tainted the drinking water of Glendive, Montana.

PSC Chairwoman Julie Fedorchak told the FNS, “We had a really thorough discussion about how they plan to operate this and monitor it and the latest and greatest technology they’ll be using, the newest pipe materials and monitoring systems, and I felt comfortable with the company … walked away with some good lessons learned on that spill and will be incorporating that in this line.”

Fedorchak added that this pipeline is “a key piece of infrastructure” that will relieve a bottleneck in the system which serves the Midwest region. The new 16-inch diameter line will stretch 15 miles across Billings and Stark Counties, running alongside an existing 8-inch Bridger pipeline. The new pipeline will increase the system’s capacity by 125,000 barrels per day from the Skunk Hills station to the Fryburg station, which then connects to a 12-inch line leading to Baker, Montana.

This summer the PSC was urged by the Laborers International Union of North America to reject the pipeline. The Union pointed to the company’s record of seemingly frequent spills, a claim Bridger refuted. As reported by the FNS, the PSC studied the company’s decade-long spill history and a control center in Casper, Wyoming, which will provide constant pipeline monitoring. The commission approved a route permit and a certificate of corridor compatibility for the pipeline, construction on which is scheduled to begin this year.

Fedorchak said the Yellowstone River spill was “a really unfortunate incident,” but that 60-year-old pipeline was trenched under the river, compared to the 30-foot depth of the new $10.4 million pipeline. Commissioner Brian Kalk told the FNS, “That’s the biggest difference to me, not open trenching where the soil is going to erode quicker. Now they’re not quite into the bedrock, but they’re pretty close.”

Correction: Bridger Pipeline LLC was not associated with the coastline spill in Santa Barbara, California. Story updated October 14, 2015.

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