Montana Panel Calls for Pipeline Safety Improvements

By MATTHEW BROWN | May 29, 2012

A state panel created to help prevent a repeat of last year’s oil spill into the Yellowstone River is calling for technology upgrades by companies and more money for pipeline inspectors.

Those recommendations are in a report due for release Tuesday by the governor-appointed Pipeline Safety Review Council.

But council chairman Richard Opper says none of the panel’s recommendations is binding. Most fall outside state government jurisdiction.

Gov. Brian Schweitzer formed the council in the wake of a 1,500-barrel crude oil spill from an Exxon Mobil pipeline near Laurel.

Federal inspectors working with the state later found dozens of river crossings where erosion left pipelines exposed to hazards. Companies including Exxon Mobil, CHS and Conoco Phillips spent tens of millions of dollars on improvements to make the crossings safe.

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