406 Dirksen EPW Hearing Room

Max Baucus


Hearing Statement of U.S. Senator Max Baucus
Chairman Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure
Environment and Public Works Committee
Yellowstone River Oil Spill Oversight

I called this hearing today to shine a bright light on a dark event: the oil spill in the Yellowstone River on July 1st.

Montanans have suffered two disasters on the Yellowstone this year: devastating floods and spilled oil. The evidence shows they are related. But there is no excuse for what happened on July 1st.

As Montanans, we love our state because of its wonderful rivers. The Yellowstone is God’s country, and it has the trout to prove it. I have seen people come visit Montana and be transformed the first time they cast a fly in the Yellowstone. We raise food and we raise families on this river.

But in Montana we also have good paying jobs, can plow our crops, and can drive to our favorite fishing holes because of the oil in our pipelines.

These are just the facts.

Water is our most sacred resource. And oil is our most basic fuel. Montana is rich in pristine waters and rich in energy. But we cannot let them mix.

Today, we will examine what happened before, and what happened after the spill—what went right, and what could be improved. Our first priority is getting the spill cleaned up and getting it cleaned up now. So, I want to make sure the

Yellowstone is being restored immediately for everyone who depends on it. Just as important is that Montana landowners be made whole. This means a fast and effective claims process. It also means a long-term commitment that Exxon will be there years down the road if the value of Montanans' land remains damaged by this spill. And that commitment must include a plan to compensate our farmers and ranchers for potential long-term impacts on the crops they depend on to earn a living.

Finally, we will look for potential lessons to be learned. We will ask tough questions about what happened and whether it could have been prevented.

Were the effects of flooding in the Yellowstone properly considered when the Silvertip Pipeline was designed? Is the pipeline operated with the specific characteristics of the Yellowstone in mind?

This was not the first flood in Montana. And it will not be the last. I also know that there are many other rivers crossed by pipelines in Montana. So I want to know: what can be done to make sure this never happens again?

It’s also very important to me that Montanans have a voice in this process. I’m proud to have two Montanans here today to share their stories and their insights. And to folks who are watching back home: we want to hear from you as well.

The official Congressional record will stay open for two weeks. Please give my office a call or send us an email and we’ll make sure your written comments are included in the record.

I look forward to hearing from all our witnesses. Thank you for coming today.