Exxon to pay $1.05M fine for 2011 oil spill in Yellowstone River

BILLINGS – ExxonMobil Corp. has agreed to pay a $1.05 million fine for environmental damage related to the 2011 Silvertip oil spill in the Yellowstone River in Laurel, according to court documents.

The settlement stems from a 2015 decision by the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. The agency issued the fine after the underground pipe broke July 1, 2011, and spilled 63,000 gallons of crude into the Yellowstone River, soiling the shoreline for miles from Riverside Park in Laurel to Billings.

About 140 people were evacuated from homes in the early morning hours after the spill was reported out of concerns of hazardous conditions caused by the spill. Oil had moved 40 miles downstream within hours of the spill and was seen 240 miles away within two days.

The agreement was outlined in court documents filed Friday in Billings. The public has 30 days to comment on the decision before U.S. District Judge Susan Watters decides to approve.

Exxon has already paid $12 million in fines from the state, which was used to pay for restoration projects along the river in Billings and Laurel. The company did not admit fault in agreeing to pay the fine, according to court documents.

“From the beginning, ExxonMobil Pipeline Company has worked cooperatively with all appropriate agencies. We believe this settlement provides for an acceptable outcome that avoids protracted litigation between the parties. Safety is always our top priority, and we are committed to operating in a safe and responsible manner,” Exxon spokesman Jeremy Eikenberry said in a statement to MTN.

-Erik Olson reporting for MTN News