Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead acknowledged Tuesday that there are some petroleum and other pipelines in the northern part of his state that have been identified by federal inspectors as being potentially at risk for failures at river and stream crossings that could have catastrophic effects on the state’s waterways. Mead is mindful of the incident in July with an ExxonMobil Corp. oil pipeline spill in the Yellowstone River in central Montana.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) reportedly has identified the pipelines carrying what are described as “oil and other hazardous liquids” being vulnerable, and a local news reporter asked Mead what the state government was doing in response during a business conference press conference Tuesday in Cheyenne. Specifically, he was asked what the state is doing to identify the alleged risks.

As part of work in Montana and Wyoming, DOT has found river crossings that it alleges needed to be repaired involving the Missouri, Musselshell, Gallatin, Tongue and other rivers. The pipelines are owned by ExxonMobil, CHS and ConocoPhillips, which have told local news media that repairs already are under way on some of the crossings.

An official with the DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration told the Associated Press that if the pipe crossing cannot be repaired they would have to be shut down.

“I haven’t seen that [DOT] report, but we have been talking to oil and gas companies to find out their views on what the structural integrity of those pipelines in question are,” Mead said. “This report comes about after the incident in Montana in which a pipeline burst and it caused pollution of the local water.”

Mead said Wyoming has not addressed the concerns in what he called a “regulatory way,” but they are being addressed.

“Our approach so far is to work with companies that have pipelines in the state, asking each of them what the status is. It’s been a voluntary effort to determine what the pipelines are, where they are, and what their conditions are.”

The incident in Montana this past summer and the follow-up federal inspections are part of a long chain of pipeline incidents that have been rearing up around the nation in the past few years.

Between January 2010 and February 2011, for example, there have been nine major pipeline explosions that resulted in 18 deaths, 13 injuries and 85 destroyed homes in the United States, including the San Bruno, CA, natural gas transmission line rupture (Sept. 9, 2010) that killed eight people and the Allentown, PA, gas distribution line (Feb. 9) that killed five people.

Federal and state officials have been stepping up pipeline integrity management programs and government inspection and oversight.

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