BILLINGS – Bridger Pipeline, LLC, a Wyoming corporation, has agreed to settle a civil lawsuit with the United States and the State of Montana with a $2 million payment to help recover natural resource damages from a pipeline break that spilled crude oil into the Yellowstone River near Glendive, U.S. Attorney Leif M. Johnson said today.
The United States and the State of Montana filed a civil complaint, along with a proposed consent decree, alleging violations of the Oil Pollution Act and state law. The complaint also seeks damages and costs for injuries to natural resources resulting from the discharge of oil from the Bridger Pipeline’s Polar pipeline when it ruptured on Jan. 17, 2015 where it crosses underneath the Yellowstone River, about 6.5 miles upstream from Glendive. Bridger Pipeline estimated that 758 barrels of oil were released.
“This settlement holds Bridger Pipeline accountable for its oil spill and provides funds to restore damage caused to the Yellowstone River’s waters, fisheries, birds and riparian habitat, ecosystems and related human activities,” U.S. Attorney Johnson said. “This agreement also provides for a restoration plan, which could include a variety of projects to restore aquatic habitat and improve or restore recreational sites along the river corridor. As the longest, free-flowing river in the Lower 48 states, the Yellowstone River is prized not only for its diverse ecosystems, fisheries and recreational opportunities, but also as a vital economic resource for local communities and the state. Protecting the environment is a high priority of the Department of Justice, and we will work with industry and our state and federal partners to ensure that happens.”
The proposed consent decree requires Bridger Pipeline to pay $2 million to resolve claims. Of this amount, $1,739,795 will be placed into a natural resource damages fund to be managed by the State of Montana and used to address injuries alleged in the complaint. Natural resources injured or damaged by the discharge include surface water, migratory birds and their supporting ecosystems, fish, including the pallid sturgeon, and associated riverine aquatic habitat and human service losses. Restoration actions or projects will be evaluated and selected by federal and state natural resource damages trustees in a future restoration plan before the funds will be spent. The restoration plan will be subject to public comment.
The remaining $260,205 portion of the settlement funds will be deposited in the U.S. Department of Interior Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Fund as reimbursement for the United States’ natural resource damage assessment costs.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Steger Smith, for the District of Montana, and John Sither, senior counsel, Environmental Enforcement Section, Environment and Natural Resources Division, U.S. Department of Justice, prosecuted the case. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Montana Department of Justice’s Natural Resources Damage Program investigated the case.
The proposed consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period and court review and approval. A copy of the settlement and proposed consent decree is available here: https://www.justice.gov/enrd/consent-decrees