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Oil Spill in US Puts Attention on Pipelines, Waterways

This is the VOA Special English Economics Report, from | In early July, an oil pipeline broke under the Yellowstone River in the western state of Montana. The Yellowstone is America's longest undammed river. The spill happened downstream from Yellowstone National Park. The burst pipe spilled as much as one thousand barrels of crude oil -- more than one hundred sixty thousand liters -- into the river. Workers shut off the Exxon Mobil pipeline, and the company continued to clean up the spill. But the river was at flood levels and flowing quickly, carrying oil downstream into wetlands, fields and yards. Exxon Mobil spokeswoman Claire Hassett said local officials had ordered a temporary shutdown of the pipeline in May to check on its condition. They were concerned with heavy rains and rising waters. But, she said, "we determined that it was safe to operate and ... we don't know what has caused this leak."Susan Casey-Lefkowitz is with the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group. She says the spill shows the dangers of mixing pipelines and waterways, "especially when they are running under some of our most precious river systems that are important not just for wildlife, but also for our communities. The Yellowstone River is critical for irrigation, for example, and so it serves the needs of a lot of farmers and communities along its path."Andy Black heads the Association of Oil Pipe Lines, an industry group whose members include pipeline owners and operators. He says, "We have processes both within companies and at the associations to share learning and best practices and pursue the goal which is zero accidents."Mr. Black says the industry does not need more federal and state rules. "The regulations cover the major causes of pipeline failures, and we do not see any gaps." Susan Casey-Lefkowitz disagrees. One concern, she says, is the future of the Ogallala aquifer, a major source of water for America's central plains. A proposed pipeline called Keystone XL would cross the Ogallala to carry oil produced from tar sands in Canada for processing in Texas. Ms. Casey-Lefkowitz says, "Ironically it would actually cross the Yellowstone River where the spill just happened." For VOA Special English, I'm Mario Ritter. For more programs and activities for learning English, go to (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 08Jul2011)
Length: 03:59


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