Montana Public Radio

Pipeline Breach Spills Crude Oil On Crow Reservation

May 26, 2021

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A breached oil pipeline has spilled an undetermined volume of crude on the Crow Indian Reservation in southeastern Montana after possibly leaking for months before it was discovered, a tribal official said Wednesday.

The spill was discovered earlier this week by a rancher checking his cows several miles east of Fort Smith in a remote area near the Montana-Wyoming border, said Vernon Hill with Crow Disaster and Emergency Services.

Crude oil could be seen on top of the soil in a coulee covering an area approximately 15 yards (14 meters) wide and 100 yards (91 meters) long, Hill said.

“It looked like it was this past winter when it broke," he said. “It was probably underneath the snow and the snow melted and they were able to see it."

Hill did not know if the leak had been stopped but said federal officials and oil companies that operate in the area were notified.

Hill said the spill was about three-quarters of a mile (1.2 kilometers) from Soap Creek and did not get into any waterways.

But tribal member Richard White Clay said photos taken by the rancher who discovered the spill appeared to show oil in Soap Creek. White Clay said his niece is one of the owners of the affected land.