Exxon Mobil to Pay $1.6 Million in Penalties for Yellowstone River Oil Spill

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Exxon Mobil has reached an agreement with the Montana Department of Environmental Quality to pay $1.6 million in penalties over the Yellowstone River oil spill, according to the Associated Press. The agreement specifically details that the oil company will spend $1.3 million on future environmental projects, pay $300,000 in cash, and reimburse state agencies for $760,000 in emergency response costs. The penalty is the largest in the history of the agency.

With this landmark decision, here are some facts and information about the Yellowstone River oil spill and the following events leading up to Thursday's announcement:

* KTVQ Billings reported that the spill occurred on the night of Friday, July 1, 2011, after an underground line underneath the Yellowstone River broke and the initial spill estimates were 750 to 1,000 barrels.

* In less than 24 hours, the unrefined crude oil had spread from the town of Laurel, Mont., to Hysham, a town about 100 miles east.

* CNN added that the about 200 residents were evacuated after the oil company reported the spill but were allowed back to their homes the following morning.

* Ecological concerns have also been raised since the river is home to trout and helps provide habitat and food for geese, otters, and bald eagles, all of which could be at risk for ingesting toxins.

* Cleanup efforts included utilizing 48,000 feet of absorbent boom, 2,300 absorbent pads, and vacuum trucks and tankers.

* In light of the $1.6 million agreement, Exxon Mobil increased its estimate of the total number of crude oil spilled by 50 percent from the earlier estimate of 1,000 barrels to at least 1,509 barrels, according to the Billings Gazette.

* Gov. Brian Schweitzer had disputed with Exxon, saying that the 1,000-barrel estimate was too low and, in addition, only about 10 barrels of crude oil were recovered by cleanup crews.

* The New York Times reported that 10 days into the spill, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) testing showed that air and drinking water quality did not pose safety risks.

* During the time of the spill, raging flood waters prevent water tested and the EPA was unable to proceed until flood waters receded.

* In October, eight landowners filed a lawsuit against Exxon seeking unspecified damages for harm to their property and businesses as a result of the oil spill, reported the Associated Press.

* The rupture happened in a pipeline buried 5 to 7 feet below the river and since the burst, a 12-inch pipeline was been reburied about 60 to 70 below the river and oil transport has resumed.

Rachel Bogart provides an in-depth look at current environmental issues and local Chicago news stories. As a college student from the Chicago suburbs pursuing two science degrees, she applies her knowledge and passion to both topics to garner further public awareness.

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