Federal investigation into oil spill finds Wyoming company failed to properly bury pipeline

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Federal prosecutors suspect a Wyoming company of potentially concealing problems with a pipeline that broke and spilled more than 50,000 gallons (240,000 liters) of crude into Montana’s Yellowstone River, fouling a small city’s drinking water supply, court filings show.

The government is suing Bridger Pipeline for violations of environmental laws in the 2015 spill, which came after the line buried beneath the Yellowstone became exposed and broke when ice scoured the river bottom upstream of Glendive, Mont.

A survey of the line on behalf of Bridger in 2011 included a note that the pipe was buried only 1.5 feet (0.5 meters) beneath the river. That would have put it at heightened risk of breaking.

But after the spill, prosecutors alleged, company representatives referenced a second survey when they told federal regulators that the pipeline had been buried at least 7.9 feet (2.4 meters), giving it “adequate cover” to protect against spills.

“This raises questions – which Bridger has yet to answer – about whether Bridger concealed material facts about the condition of the crossing before the Yellowstone spill,” assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Elmer wrote in court documents.

Attorneys for Casper-based Bridger rejected the allegations about conflicting surveys as “conspiracy theories." Company spokesperson Bill Salvin said the line was adequately buried at the time of the surveys.


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