ATP Executive Director Donald Ferguson statement from the site of the Laurel, Mont. oil release

ATP Executive Director Donald Ferguson statement from the site of the Laurel, Mont. oil release

LAUREL, MONT. – ATP Executive Director Donald Ferguson issued the following statement Friday afternoon from the site of the Silvertip pipeline oil release:

I am on site in Billings and Laurel meeting with officials from the state and the Environmental Protection Agency regarding the accidental release of between 750 to 1000 barrels of oil from Laurel’s Silvertip pipeline after large flooding scoured the river bottom and damaged the pipe.

Most importantly, I am meeting with the local residents whose lives have been upturned by the recent river flooding and this release.  Being forced to evacuate your home is upsetting and stressful, but you can count on Montanans to handle it with class, dignity and patience.  Local residents and the owner of the property where the release occurred tell me they are pleased with ExxonMobil’s response.  State Rep. Dan Kennedy, whose home is at the center of the incident, should be commended for his efforts to coordinate response with the local community and involve local workers in the ongoing cleanup efforts.

ExxonMobil has established a claims hotline number, 1-888-382-0043, to assist those who might have been impacted by this event, and they encourage members of the public to report oil to assist in the cleanup effort. Citizens should also call 1-800-259-0596 to report any signs of impacted wildlife so they can fully assist wildlife rescue.  Thankfully the impact on wildlife has been small.

EPA officials confirm there is no serious pollution and the release was between 750 and 1000 barrels.  EPA confirms no detected volatile organic compounds or hydrogen sulfide in the air along the river.  EPA confirms no benzene in the air.  EPA confirms no hydrocarbons above drinking water levels.  EPA confirms drinking water is safe and the river water is safe for irrigation.

EPA officials tell me “the human health issue is resolved.”

I am very impressed with ExxonMobil’s response to this release.  They recognized the seriousness of the situation, acted quickly and are sparing no expense in working to restore the environment.  This is how all companies should respond to unforeseen and rare incidents.

Residents were already concerned about the river due to high waters that appear they will not subside soon.  The accidental release only added to concerns.  Thankfully the release was limited and while the oil won’t go away as soon as we’d like the area is rapidly being restored, both by the ongoing efforts of ExxonMobil and nature’s own ability to clean up a natural substance.

The only similar incident I recall is when a major flood in Coffeyville, Kansas resulted in a release seven times larger than the Silvertip release.  No drinking water was contaminated, the oil was quickly cleaned up and what damage did occur was largely the result of the flooding.  Coffeyville experienced no long-term effects from the release seven times larger than this one.

Thankfully oil is an all-natural, organic substance that quickly biodegrades.  Anyone who has lived in an area where oil naturally seeps into creeks and rivers has seen that for themselves.  ExxonMobil is going out of its way to rapidly clean up the limited release, but nature itself is quickly cleansing the river.

The fact is no form of energy and no energy or environmental policy is without risk.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates about 440,000 birds are killed each year by wind power turbines.  That figure includes thousands upon thousands of endangered species and federally-protected migratory birds.  The Audubon Society is now working to shut down major wind projects that threaten entire bird populations.  The U.S. Forest Service is also working with the wind power lobby to clear-cut thousands of acres of sensitive forests near wind turbines to reduce turbulence and give turbines access to wind.

Solar cells and coal-powered electric cars require thousands of tons of heavy toxic metals extracted through intensive mining, often in countries with lax environmental standards like China.  Those toxic heavy metals end up in landfills and scrapyards where they threaten groundwater after the solar cells reach the end of their short service life.

Additionally, large solar “farms,” touted as “green,” require that heavy bulldozers “scrape” the earth clean to allow installation of the cells and remove any trees or other plant life that would block sunlight.  Native Americans in California have even been forced to sue after one solar power corporation threatened to bulldoze land that wasn’t just a sensitive ecosystem, but sacred to their people.

Laws intended to “protect the forests” by eradicating jobs harvesting dead, diseased and dying timber have instead annihilated millions of acres of sensitive ecosystems by allowing the spread of invasive pine bark beetles and needlessly providing millions of tons of dead and diseased wood to fuel wildfires.

Here in Montana, environmentalist efforts to import foreign Canadian gray wolves into the state have wiped out massive numbers of elk, moose and other native game herds and spread deadly diseases like brucellosis, tularemia, listeriosis and anthrax.  Environmentalist lawsuits and agitation to allow the spread of Yellowstone bison outside of the park have spread diseases like brucellosis, which kills countless moose and elk calves.

No form of energy and no environmental policy is without risk.  But thankfully this release has been small and ExxonMobil, and nature itself, are rapidly restoring the environment.  ExxonMobil has been a great neighbor and Montana citizen, and the residents should be commended for their calm, reasoned response to this incident and the recent flooding that caused it.

(Note: Donald Ferguson has paid for this trip out of his own pocket, and did not come at the request of any official or company.)

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