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MSNBC "Rachel Maddow Show" - Transcript


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GOV. BRIAN SCHWEITZER (D), MONTANA: Great to be back, Rachel.

MADDOW: Can you give us any update on the extent of the damage? We heard 25 miles downstream from Exxon tonight. We heard 40 miles from the EPA.

What"s your understanding?

SCHWEITER: Nobody knows. They flow on the river, I flew over the river. And from an airplane, you can barely see any oil at all.

You can"t--you can"t see what"s happening on those lowlands, those prairie areas.

What happened was the river was crested. It was at flood stage, when the pipe burst. Now, the river is coming down, and those areas that are outside the river channel are now losing the water because it"s draining back into the river or its infiltrating and what"s left behind is this black goo.

They tell us that they"ve flown in the river, but the river is too high to put boats on, so they tell us, the furthest we"ve seen it downstream is 15 miles. Well, that river is running at seven miles per hour. And with all of those profits that ExxonMobil has, they haven"t bought a $2 calculator to know that 48 hours, it"s running seven miles per hour, that"s enough to get it to the North Dakota border and we are now much more than 48 hours, and yet they say, well, it could only have gone 25 miles.

Well, of course, oil floats on top of water. Water is moving down very quickly. So, it"s moving along--some of that oil moved as far as the Missouri River confluence to the North Dakota border.

MADDOW: Are you satisfied with how ExxonMobil has responded to the leak since they found out about it? Do you think that a company with as many resources as they have should be able to do more than they are doing?

SCHWEITZER: Well, you know, Reagan famously said that we will trust but verify. But when the president of this pipeline company came out during the first 24 hours and said it"s only gone 10 miles and there"s no damage to wildlife, that was leaving us with just verify and verify.

So, it is the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, EPA, yes, we"re working with ExxonMobil. They will ultimately pay for all of this. They told me today they would.

But just a year and a week ago, I called in all the agencies in state government and I said, OK, let"s have a mock drill right now. What happens if a pipeline bursts, an oil pipeline bursts and the Yellowstone River right now, what agency is in charge, who pays for it, where are the resources?

And I was assured that these private pipelines companies and oil companies, they all work together and they strategically place equipment around the country, near these pipelines, and when there"s an emergency, they all come together and they work together until the disaster is fixed. Nope, it didn"t turn out that way. Actually, the crew came in from Salt Lake City. Equipment has come from the coast. We waited a couple of days until we had any kind of a boat or crew could get on the river.

And so, if you wait long enough, this oil will dissipate, and, of course, the interests of the state of Montana to protect this river and the wildlife is not perfectly aligned with ExxonMobil whose primary interest is to protect the liability for their shareholders.

MADDOW: What do you attribute the difference between the drill and the way it worked out? Were people lying about the degree of readiness so that they get a thumbs-up to keep doing what they were doing? Or is this something that--is this something where it could be better regulation? Is there something where the mistakes were unforeseeable? What explains that, do you think?

SCHWEITZER: All of the above and older technology. This pipeline is a 20-year old pipeline. We no longer lay pipelines in rivers like this one is installed. We no longer have a pipeline that"s just five feet into the sediment at the bottom of a river.

If you"re building new pipelines, the protocol today is that you drill horizontally 25 feet below the river bed, so even if it were to burst, it"s not introduced to the river.

I asked them today specifically--if you replace this silver tip pipeline, are you going to horizontally drill under the river? And I wasn"t sure what the answer was. They were engineers that sounded a lot like lawyers.

MADDOW: The affects of these spills can last years. Of course, that depends in part on how the clean-up effort is, but also how bad the damage is from the outset.

Do you have concerns about ExxonMobil sticking around as long as it has to, to clean up Montana, to clean up this river and help those who have been hurt by this?

SCHWEITZER: I told them today that the clean-up will be done when the client, the state of Montana, the people of Montana, and the wildlife of Montana in that Yellowstone River decide that clean-up is done. It won"t be decided by ExxonMobil and it won"t be decided by bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.

When we decide the clean-up is done, it"s done. And I can tell you this--I"m the only soil scientist in America that"s a governor. And I"m going to be on this like smell on a skunk until it"s fixed.

MADDOW: Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, thank you for your time tonight, sir, and good luck dealing with this big Exxon mess you got on your hands.

SCHWEITZER: Thank you.

MADDOW: Thanks.


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