Yellowstone Valley Citizens Demand Exxon Pay Full Oil Spill Fine
With cries of “Beep beep, toot toot. Hey, Exxon get off that loot,” more than 50 Yellowstone County citizens rallied recently at Coulson Park in Billings to tell ExxonMobil to pay a $1.7 million dollar fine for spilling 63,000 gallons of crude oil into the Yellowstone River two years ago.
Members of the Northern Plains Resource Council, National Wildlife Federation, Montana Conservation Voters Yellowstone Chapter, Yellowstone Valley Citizens Council, and the Montana Laborers Union said Exxon needs to pay the fine levied by the U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) for the Silvertip Pipeline break beneath the river near Laurel on July 1, 2011.
A new Facebook page asking Exxon to pay its fine had 1,000 “likes” in one month. A petition of sorts, “Exxon, Pay Your Yellowstone Oil Spill Fine” can be found at http://www.facebook.com/PayYourFineExxon.
“Exxon certainly deserves the fine,” said Eileen Morris of Yellowstone Valley Citizens Council. “We want Exxon to be good neighbors and be accountable for its actions.”
On May 13, 2013, ExxonMobil Corp. challenged the $1.7 million in penalties proposed by PHMSA, which faulted the company as responsible for the crude oil spill. The oil spill contaminated more than 70 miles of riverbank, killing fish and wildlife, threatening water supplies, and damaging landowners’ property along the river.
“If I drive, break the law, and get caught by the police, I certainly would pay my fine,” said Rep. Margaret MacDonald, whose district borders the Yellowstone River. “Exxon needs to pay its fine for violating our natural resources. As far as corporate responsibility, Exxon posted $9.5 billion in profits for the first quarter of this year, it certainly can be a good neighbor and pay its fine.”
“Sop, Exxon doesn’t want to pay its fine,” said Alexis Bonogofsky, a riverfront landowner impacted by the spill. “Well, I didn’t want to see my family’s fields and pastures flooded with oil. I didn’t want to go to the hospital with acute hydrocarbon exposure. And my family didn’t want to look down the next morning and see our hay field covered in oil. My family has been dealing with the mess that Exxon made for two years.
“This isn’t about the money to Exxon. God knows they have enough. What it is about is responsibility and accountability. They need to be held accountable for this spill.
“We didn’t choose this fight but we will make sure that our federal government and elected officials do not allow Exxon to negotiate away their responsibility. So what we need you to do is tell Senator Baucus, Senator Tester and Representative Daines to support PHMSA’s full fine against Exxon and not to negotiate.”
On July 17, a hearing will be held in Washington, D.C ,. with PHMSA to address Exxon’s protest of the fine.