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September, 26, 2016

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Exxon agrees to pay US$12 mil. for Yellowstone River pipeline rupture

BILLINGS, Montana -- Exxon Mobil Corp. has agreed to pay US$12 million for environmental damages caused by a pipeline break that spilled 63,000 gallons (238,474 liters) of oil into Montana's Yellowstone River and prompted a national debate over lax pipeline safety rules, officials said Wednesday.

The payment is meant to settle claims from the U.S. and state governments that the crude oil killed fish and wildlife and damaged thousands of acres along an 137-kilometer stretch of the famous river that flows through southern Montana.

Court approval is pending before U.S. Magistrate Judge Carolyn Ostby.

Exxon could face further penalties for violations of federal water pollution laws, a matter not addressed in the settlement.

The pipeline break upstream of Billings, Montana's largest city, required a months-long cleanup.

A U.S. Transportation Department investigation found Exxon workers failed to adequately heed warnings that the 20-year-old pipeline was at risk from flooding.

Governor Steve Bullock, Attorney General Tim Fox and representatives of the U.S. Justice Department announced the US$12 million settlement at the site of the pipeline break in Laurel. The Associated Press obtained details in advance.

"All of U.S. as Montanans lost something when that spill occurred," Bullock said. "This money is to make sure not just that we're compensated but the pelicans are where they should be, the fish are where they should be."

Assistant U.S. Attorney General John Cruden said restoration of the river is not done.

"We're going to work to bring the river back to where it would have been but for that spill event." Cruden said.

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In this July 2, 2011 file photo, oil swirls in a flooded gravel pit in Lockwood, Montana after a pipeline break.

(AP)

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