It’s been two years, so it’s time for Exxon to pay up. That demand was made at a rally Monday in Billings on the anniversary of the Exxon crude oil spill into the Yellowstone River.
The U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Safety Administration levied a $1.7 million fine based on known safety issues that weren’t addressed. Exxon is challenging the penalty.
Eileen Morris with the Yellowstone Valley Citizens Council organized the rally, where those attending asked the state’s congressional delegation to support the fine.
“Exxon certainly deserves the fine,” Morris declared. “They should be good citizens and just own up to the fact that they have it coming.”
About 63,000 gallons of oil spilled into the Yellowstone River, contaminating 70 miles of riverbank. The rally was in Coulson Park.
“If I drive, break the law, and get caught by the police, I certainly would pay my fine,” said state Rep. Margaret MacDonald, whose district borders the Yellowstone River.
“Exxon needs to pay its fine for violating our natural resources. As far as corporate responsibility, Exxon posted $9.5 billion in profits for the first quarter of this year, it certainly can be a good neighbor and pay its fine.”
“So, Exxon doesn’t want to pay its fine,” said Alexis Bonogofsky, a riverfront landowner impacted by the spill. “Well, I didn’t want to see my family’s fields and pastures flooded with oil. I didn’t want to go to the hospital with acute hydrocarbon exposure. And my family didn’t want to look down the next morning and see our hay field covered in oil. My family has been dealing with the mess that Exxon made for two years.”
Debra Bonogofsky said of the restitution effort, “They plowed up our grass pasture by the river, and now it’s sitting there just dirt and weeds, because they tried to replant it last year, but that’s when we had the drought and nothing came up, and so nothing’s been done since.”
A hearing is scheduled for July 17 in Washington, where the DOT and Exxon will discuss the fine.
A new Facebook page asking Exxon to pay its fine had 1,000 “likes” in one month. A petition of sorts, “Exxon, Pay Your Yellowstone Oil Spill Fine,” can be found at www.facebook.com/PayYourFineExxon.
A news release from the Northern Plains Resource Council contributed to this report.