Documents obtained by the Associated Press show it took ExxonMobil almost an hour to seal the pipeline under the Yellowstone and stop the flow of crude into the river. An Exxon executive told Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer yesterday that it had only taken thirty minutes.
The federal documents also show the oil company told concerned regulators a month before the line break that the pipeline was 12 feet beneath the riverbed.
Details about ExxonMobil’s actions leading up to the Friday night spill emerged as the Department of Transportation ordered the company to bury the 12-inch pipeline more deeply. The cause of the pipeline’s failure remains under investigation, but the prevailing theory is that the raging river eroded the riverbed and exposed the line to damage from debris.