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Opinion: What the Yellowstone Exxon oil spill means to Montanans



July 14, 2011

By Taylor Anderson

The Yellowstone River oil spill this
month means more to this state than
dirtied waters and dying trout.
It’s about a spotlight that Montana was
shoved under while an hour’s worth
of oil flow spilled into one of the most
pristine rivers in the country. It represents
the give and take nature of being
an energy producing state, and the
risks and rewards that come with it.
As Texas-based Exxon Mobil’s ruptured
pipeline was mussing the banks
with thousands of gallons of crude,
Montanans were left questioning,
‘What for?’
Well, for the oil, for starters.
Manmade disasters like this will happen
whether we want them to or not.
That’s what comes with the territory
when demand (some might say need)
for oil allows pipelines to breach our
“We want the oil, but we don’t want it
like this.”
It’s easy to become outraged in the
wake of disaster – what’s hard is justifying
it. The pipeline provides oil that
each of us uses, and if it doesn’t come
from Montana, then where does it
come from?
The nation has proudly backed a call
for reduced dependence on foreign oil.
Producing it ourselves would create
jobs and perhaps decrease costs. But
that means the oil will pump around
the country through veins like this
one, and to say they should be left out
of Montana and kept in, say, Texas,
promotes an air of snobbishness that’s
a testament to our love of this state but
isn’t feasible. If we want to decrease
foreign dependence, we won’t leave
reserves untapped. If it’s there, it will
be pumped.
On July 12, a group of 70 protesters
gathered at the state Capitol in protest
of a proposed new pipeline that would
bring oil from Alberta’s Tar Sands
through the Keystone XL pipeline
and flow across hundreds of Montana
waterways. That group’s radical tactics,
though perhaps admirable to some,
were but a mosquito on the neck of
those in charge.
Montanans aren’t going to sit quietly
like helpless boobs as our environment
is tarnished, especially at the hands of
an out-of-state company. But we know
the risks and rewards of the energy
business. I doubt the protesters – who
were made up of people from across
the state – biked, rode or bused to the
Capitol building.
This situation surrounding the spill
was particularly troublesome because
of the Exxon president’s less than
honest way of dealing with it. The
company blatantly lied and said it shut
off the pipe within six minutes of
its rupture, whereas the number was
closer to an hour. It also estimated the
spill at 1,000 barrels, a number state
leaders have questioned.
Exxon, we don’t want you here, but
man do we love your sweet, sweet
But that’s the way it works. It’s just a
shame it happened in our back yard.

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