With the environmental and economic damage of last year’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill still not entirely repaired, a new accident was in the headlines earlier this month. It involved a much smaller incident, but still an important one.
Tens of thousands of gallons of oil flowed into the scenic Yellowstone River in Montana out of a break in an Exxon Mobil pipeline.
Exxon Mobil officials rushed to clean up the mess, while Montana’s governor criticized the company both for allowing it to happen and for allegedly not treating it seriously enough.
Obviously, Exxon Mobil should be required to deal with the environmental and economic impacts of the spill. The company should be held fully accountable for its mistake.
The drilling and pipeline industries are not as environmentally dangerous as some insist. But accidents do happen - as is the case in any industry.
While that is part of the price we pay for our energy-intensive society, it does not mean oil companies should be permitted to escape the consequences of lapses in safety and preventive maintenance. Again, accountability should be mandatory.