BLM unaware oil company was using pipeline

How could the BLM be “unaware” that a company is using a pipeline?  (Another reason to wonder how closely the BLM actually monitors the range.)  According to True Oil (True Companies), “Belle Fourche Pipeline is a liquids pipeline operator that gathers and transports crude oil in the Williston Basin of western North Dakota and the Powder River Basin of Wyoming.”  To see a map of this pipeline in Wyoming, click HERE.  According to an article in the Casper Star Tribune, True Companies have had many pipeline spills.

True Companies also owns 7 True Ranches (ADA Ranch, Double Four Ranch, LAK Ranch, Rock River Ranch, Chalk Bluffs Ranch, HU Ranch, VR Ranch), 2 feedlots (LAK Feedlot, Wheatland Feedlot) and 2 Farms (LAK Farm, Wheatland Farm) in Wyoming.          –  Debbie

cows  True Ranches’ cattle (photo:  True Companies)

SOURCE:  Buffalo Bulletin

Almost a decade after Belle Fourche Pipeline Co., a True Oil company, told the Bureau of Land Management it was no longer using a pipeline 44 miles southeast of Buffalo, the pipeline leaked 25,200 gallons of crude oil onto public lands.

The company terminated its right of way permit in writing in 2006. At some point, without the knowledge of the federal agency, the company illegally resumed use of the pipeline, said Christian Venhuizen, BLM public affairs specialist.

Why and when the company continued to use the pipeline remains unanswered. Bob Dundas, environmental coordinator for Belle Fourche and Bridger pipelines, said he would forward the Buffalo Bulletin’s request for information and comment to someone who could answer questions related to permitting.

On May 20, 2014, Belle Fourche reported the oil spill to the BLM, after workers noticed oil seeping up from the ground, Dundas said. The BLM determined that Belle Fourche was in trespass, Venhuizen said, and fined Bridger Pipeline, a sister company, also owned by True Oil.

“The company was fined for trespassing based on the federal workers’ hours involved to investigate circumstances and to remediate the spill, as well as back rental for the existing pipeline,” Venhuizen said in an email.

Bridger was fined $27,029 for the Belle Fourche trespass, Venhuizen said. The money was paid on July 29, 2014, according to BLM records.

Bridger applied for a right of way amendment Sept. 9 of last year, Venhuizen said. The BLM is still processing the application, he said.

The spill originated from a crack on a gathering line, buried between 4 and 6 feet underground, and traveled 3 miles down a dry gulch, said Dundas. Most pipelines fall under the jurisdiction of a regulating agency, but gathering lines sometimes are not, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration.

The PHMSA regulates 551 miles of the Belle Fourche line in Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming. But, the gathering line that cracked in Johnson County did not meet the criteria for PHMSA oversight, said Damon Hill, PHMSA spokesman. The gathering line was either less than 6 inches in diameter, in a rural area or operated at a low pressure, Hill said.

As a result, PHMSA incident reports and records of compliance with safety codes on the Belle Fourche pipeline do not include the Johnson County oil spill. According to the agency’s records, Belle Fourche was responsible for two incidents in 2014, totaling 340 gallons of crude oil spilled and $231,700 in property damage. A full record of incidents on Belle Fourche pipeline is only available from the company itself.

The company estimated that 600 barrels, or 25,200 gallons, leaked last spring. That amount is an estimate based on Belle Fourche’s records of pump rates and number of days in use, and is not validated by independent, federal or state regulators, Dundas said.

Remediation continues on the site, Dundas said. Belle Fourche recommended that the soil be tilled to assist with bioremediation or biodegradation, which Dundas said involves getting enough moisture and oxygen to the area to assist microbes that feed off the residual crude. The company has also considered adding fertilizer, Dundas said.

Bioremediation is the preferred form of remediation because it doesn’t involve heavy machinery, which could create erosion, Dundas said.

“We’re trying to do as little damage as possible to the drainage,” he said. “It’s a lot less invasive.”

Dundas expects the remediation process to continue in the summer with a reassessment this fall.

*Editor’s note – In last week’s edition, a story about the oil spill in southern Johnson County incorrectly stated the amount of the spill. Belle Fourche Pipeline Co. estimated the spill at 25,200, not 12,200 gallons as originally reported.

 

7 comments on “BLM unaware oil company was using pipeline

  1. This again shows that there is so much corruption happening on our public land and a lot of it is ignored by the supposed stewards of that land – the BLM. When this company got a fine of $27,029 they laughed their heads off – that is not even a fly-speck on a bull’s butt for these mega bucks companies. I wonder who in our government agencies got the pay-off for allowing this?

    I think I already told this story about the illegal domestic livestock trespass that went on for many months (with BLM’s complete awareness) on one of our HMAs in NE CA and the result was a ~$8000 charge to the trespass ranch owner but after “negotiations” (shall we call it that?) the trespasser only had to pay a few hundred dollars. Per FOIA documents.

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  2. Thanks, Debbie and Grandmagregg. Kinder-Morgan wants to repurpose old 1941 pipelines here in KY to carry fracking fluids. Can’t stand to think of what will happen if approved by FEER. TV ads say how safe natural gas is–nothing about the fluids.

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  3. Fined???! What did it come out to – about $1.01 a gallon?

    Gosh; now they’ll have to apply for a Federal loss subsidy.

    (Yep. That was a bitter expression of my bitterness.)

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  4. From PEER ( Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility)

    ABANDONED UNCAPPED WELLS POCKMARK WESTERN PUBLIC LANDS
    http://www.peer.org/news/news-releases/2015/03/30/abandoned-uncapped-wells-pockmark-western-public-lands/
    Records Show BLM Does Not Shoulder Responsibilities to Ensure Reclamation
    Posted on Mar 30, 2015
    Washington, DC-The U.S. Bureau of Land Management does a poor job of ensuring that abandoned, non-producing oil and gas wells are reclaimed as required by its own regulations, according to an analysis of records from Utah Field Offices posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The group is asking for an audit of BLM orphaned well reclamation in Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming, Western states that the PEER record review did not cover.

    BLM regulations require that oil and gas wells no longer producing in paying quantities should be plugged, related facilities and equipment removed, and disturbed sites re-contoured and revegetated. Plugging and reclaiming ends needless venting of methane and other greenhouse gases, prevents spills and contamination, reduces soil erosion, curbs fugitive dust and returns the site for wildlife forage.

    Many wells that were not producing when Stan Olmstead started working at BLM in Utah back in 1992 were still not reclaimed twenty years later when he retired. Stan wanted to know how widespread the problem was and enlisted PEER to help find out. He designed a record request that PEER sent to BLM seeking information on well reclamation in Utah.
    The resulting records revealed more than 1,000 unplugged and un-reclaimed non-producing wells – nearly 800 of which have not been producing for more than seven years – and more than 500 abandoned for over a decade. Each well site averages approximately four acres.
    “Reclaiming abandoned wells is more than bureaucratic busywork, it is the epitome of good land stewardship,” stated PEER Staff Counsel Laura Dumais who obtained the BLM records. “These figures suggest that BLM is much better at issuing drilling permits than policing or retiring them.”

    In a letter to BLM Director Neil Kornze directing his attention to these conditions, Stan Olmstead wrote:
    “As a past employee at the BLM Vernal Field Office (VFO) I became greatly concerned with the lack of oversight administered by the office in requiring and assuring appropriate and professional energy well abandonment and land reclamation by the energy industry… VFO management’s concern in reclamation was not the same as in permitting land use. This lack of priority of land ‘health’ is a failure to serve the American public.”

    PEER is requesting that the Interior Department Office of Inspector General audit BLM compliance with requirements to reclaim non-producing wells on BLM lands in in Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming, active petroleum-producing states that the PEER record review did not cover.

    “Oil and gas companies should not be allowed to use public lands as a scrap heap,” Dumais added. “We think an audit would motivate BLM to start enforcing its own reclamation policy.”

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