Cleanup, investigation underway after Phillips 66 pipeline leaks gas on Crow land

2013-07-04T12:00:00Z 2013-07-12T12:05:05Z Cleanup, investigation underway after Phillips 66 pipeline leaks gas on Crow landBy CINDY UKEN cuken@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

A pipeline that may have leaked as many as 1,000 barrels of gasoline near Lodge Grass this week has a history of problems.

Representatives of the U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline Safety Administration, Phillips 66, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Crow Tribe responded to the scene of the Seminoe Pipeline leak on reservation land.

Though Dennis Nuss, a spokesman for Phillips 66, said the amount of gasoline has not been determined, Crow Chairman Darrin Old Coyote said company representatives told him that early estimates were about 1,000 barrels, or 42,000 gallons.

Phillips 66 personnel detected a leak at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in its 8-inch, below-ground Seminoe Pipeline 15 miles southwest of Lodge Grass and immediately shut it down, Nuss said.

Phillips 66’s pipeline control center in Bartlesville, Okla., which monitors the company’s pipeline systems, detected the leak.

Crews were sent to assess the leak, which is in the Soap Creek area, Nuss said. State, local, federal and tribal organizations were notified.

“We are concerned,” Old Coyote said. “The leak happend on allottees’ land. We’re trying to resolve the leak and work out the details later.”

There were no injuries related to the leak and no threat to the community or water sources, he said.

“We continue to monitor the area to ensure the safety of our workers and the community,” Nuss said, adding that Phillips 66 is cooperating with other interests to clean up the impacted area, repair the pipelne and restart the pipline system.

The cause of the leak has not been determined.

“At this time, there is no anticipated health impact to the community,” Nuss said. “The safety of the community and the environment are of the utmost importance to our company, and these priorities will guide our efforts as we work with local and state officials on the response.”

A Phillips 66 remediation team that works with the appropriate agencies on cleanup were at the leak site Thursday, Nuss said.

Leaks like the one that occurred Tuesday are “very uncommon,” Nuss said, adding that Phillips is committed to managing its pipelines to a “very high standard.”

It’s not the first incident on the Seminoe Pipeline.

In 2004, the Conoco Pipe Line Co. agreed to pay $465,000 for environmental violations after the line broke twice in a week in 1997, spilling more than 2,300 barrels of gasoline near Lodge Grass and Banner, Wyo.

The oil company changed its corporate and pipeline company name after merging with Phillips Petroleum in 2002.

Underground earth movements caused the fractures in the Seminoe Pipeline at that time, according to court documents.

After cleaning up the Lodge Grass spill and making temporary repairs to the pipeline, the company laid about 3,400 feet of steel-coated replacement pipeline at a lower-than-normal depth of 6 to 8 feet below grade to avoid future ruptures from unstable soils. The company also installed strain gauges on portions of the pipeline in the area of the spill to monitor future ground movements.

This week’s leak occurred in “unusual terrain,” said Patricia Klinger of the Pipeline Safety Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation. The investigation could take several days to several months, she said.

Representatives of the Pipeline Safety Administration, Phillips 66, the Environmental Protection Administration and the Crow Tribe, including historic preservation monitors, are all at the site.

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., said he will make sure that the spill gets cleaned up.

“Tapping into our natural resources creates jobs, but it must be done safely and responsibly,” Tester said. “This incident shows why Sen. Baucus and I passed our pipeline safety bill, and why we must continue to do everything we can to protect our treasured lands and waters.”

U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., said cleanup and safety are the No. 1 priority. “My team and I are talking with the tribal, state and federal officials to gather the facts so we can make sure the Crow Tribe and Montana have the resources to restore any damaged lands and protect landowners.”

The office of U.S. Rep. Steve Daines, R-Mont., issued a statement: “I am concerned and will work with the Crow Tribe and local, state, and federal officials to closely monitor this situation and ensure that the community is equipped to respond to this issue.”

The Seminoe Pipeline transports finished petroleum products such as unleaded gasoline, diesel fuel and jet fuel from the Billings refinery to Wyoming, Utah and Colorado.

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