Pipeline leaks 45,000 gallons of diesel in Wyoming

Billings, Mont. — A Wyoming diesel pipeline, owned by a company being sued by federal prosecutors over past leaks in two other states, has broken open and released more than 45,000 gallons (205,000 liters) of fuel, a state official said Friday.

Cleanups are underway from the spill discovered by the pipeline’s operator on July 27, said Joe Hunter, emergency response coordinator for the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality. The fuel spilled onto private farms near the small community of Sussex in eastern Wyoming, he said.

Contaminated soil was excavated and placed in a temporary staging area, and it will be scattered on a nearby dirt road where most of the fuel is expected to evaporate, Hunter said.

The line is operated by Bridger Pipeline, a subsidiary of the Casper-based True companies, according to an accident report filed with the U.S. Coast Guard’s National Response Center.

The company initially reported that only 420 gallons (1,590 liters) had been spilled, but later revised its estimate to 45,150 gallons (205,250 liters), according to a National Response Center database.

True and its subsidiaries have a long history of spills. In May, federal prosecutors in Montana alleged that representatives of Bridger Pipeline had concealed problems with a pipeline that broke under the Yellowstone River near the town of Glendive in 2015 from regulators. The breach spewed more than 240,000 gallons of crude oil into the river and contaminated Glendive’s drinking water supply.

In North Dakota, federal prosecutors and the state attorney general are pursuing parallel claims of environmental violations against a second True companies subsidiary responsible for a 2016 spill that released more than 600,000 gallons (2.7 million liters) of crude oil. and the Little Missouri River polluted and a tributary.

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Representatives of the companies have denied violating pollution laws and have dismissed claims that problems with the Montana line were hidden from federal regulators.

The Wyoming leak was caused by a rupture in a weld in the pipe, said Hunter, who didn’t know how long the leak was before it was discovered. The spilled fuel did not appear to reach waterways, and no enforcement actions for environmental violations were planned, he said.

“I’m not saying there wouldn’t be any in the future, but right now there won’t be any state enforcement actions, Hunter said. “It’s an older pipeline and it’s one of those things that happens.”

The 6-inch diameter steel pipe was installed in 1968 by its original owner and later acquired by Bridger Pipeline, said company spokesman Bill Salvin. It was last inspected in 2019, using a device that travels inside the pipe looking for flaws, Salvin said. No problems were identified at the time, he says.

“We are focused on minimizing the impact on the environment and we are going to replace the soil and restore the land as close to its original state as possible,” Salvin said.

Kenneth Clarkson of the Pipeline Safety Trust, a Bellingham, Washington-based group advocating for safer pipelines, said a thorough investigation into the cause of the spill should be conducted.

“It’s frustrating to hear of another leak from Bridger Pipeline LLC,” Clarkson said. “This spill of more than 45,000 gallons of diesel in rural Wyoming is negatively impacting the environment, wildlife and surrounding communities.”

Pipeline safety violations would be treated separately and under the jurisdiction of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, part of the United States 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 reached a $2 million settlement with the federal government and Montana last year over damage from the Yellowstone River spill. The company was previously fined $1 million in the case by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality.

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