The Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials, chaired by U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA) held a hearing today to focus on the July 1, 2011 accidental release of crude oil from the Silvertip Pipeline in Yellowstone County, Montana.
The Silvertip Pipeline is a 12-inch diameter pipeline approximately 69 miles in length that transports crude oil from the Silvertip pump station near Elk Basin, Wyoming, to the ExxonMobil refinery in Billings, Montana. ExxonMobil owns and operates the Silvertip Pipeline. The U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PMHSA) estimates that 750-1,000 barrels of crude oil were released into the Yellowstone River as a result of the accident. PHMSA continues to investigate the cause of the spill. At this time the cause of the spill has not been determined.
Today's hearing was requested by U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT). He spoke at this morning's hearing, stating: "I look forward to working with Senators Tester and Baucus and the agencies and companies represented on the panel to accomplish two critical things today. First, we need to figure out what went wrong so we can determine what can be done to prevent it from happening again. Second, I want to be absolutely certain that we're doing everything that can be done to mitigate the environmental, health and economic impact from this spill."
Chairman Shuster's Statement from this morning's hearing:
"I want to offer my heartfelt condolences to all those who have been impacted by this incident in Montana. As Chairman of the Subcommittee, I want to ensure that Congress is being proactive and staying on top of critical safety issues. I also want to ensure that Federal, state, and local actors and key stakeholders are working together, that safety concerns are being adequately addressed, and that incidents are subject to appropriate investigations.
"The United States has the largest network of energy pipelines (2.5 million miles) in the world, and pipelines remain the energy lifelines that power nearly all of our daily activities.
"America's pipeline network is the safest and most cost-effective means to transport the extraordinary volumes of natural gas and hazardous liquid products that fuel our economy.
"Both government and industry have taken numerous steps to improve pipelines safety over the last 10 years. While the data shows that federal pipeline safety programs have been on the right track, recent pipeline incidents suggest there continues to be room for improvement.
"These incidents are cause for concern, and pipeline companies must show they are aggressively taking action to address safety concerns and that safety continues to be their top priority. Today we are focused on gathering information regarding the incident in Montana and examining what went wrong. I am committed to ensuring the continued safety and enhanced reliability in the transportation of the nation's energy products by pipeline.
"Additionally, I am committed to enhancing our already strong pipeline system by looking at ways to improve safety and coordination between the Federal government, state regulators and pipeline operators. We must ensure that we proceed in a thoughtful and balanced way that keeps in place regulatory measures that are working and makes adjustments to measures that are not working."