News broke earlier this month about a massive oil spill into Montana’s Yellowstone River, the second in less than four years. The terrible incident is now causing officials to question an oversight in the nation’s aging pipeline network. Company officials and investigators have been trying to determine the cause of the 40,000-gallon spill that ruined water supplies for the city of Glendive.

Oil in water

Senator Jon Tester said that the spill was avoidable from the decades-old Poplar Pipeline but there just weren’t enough people to prevent it. The Senator said there is a need for more frequent inspections and stricter safety standards. “We need to take a look at some of these pipelines that have been in the ground for half a century and say, ‘Are they still doing a good job?'” Tester said.

In 2011, an ExxonMobil pipeline break caused a staggering 63,000 gallons of oil to flood into the Yellowstone River near Billings. Now that a similar spill has occurred just a few years later, it is apparent that something drastic needs to be done in order to prevent further environmental harm in that area.

Many Republicans and some Democrats want the Obama administration to approve TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline form Canada to the Gulf. The new pipeline would cross the Yellowstone upstream from the spill. Poplar was constructed in the 1950s and the breached section beneath the Yellowstone was replaced almost four decades ago in the early 1970s.

The agency’s Office of Pipeline Safety has only 150 inspectors overseeing 2.6 million miles of gas, oil and other pipelines. With the new $27 million budget increase from last year, this number is supposed to increase by another 100 inspectors. Bridger Pipeline has committed to providing bottled water for Glendive’s 6,000residents until they get the plant up and running again. Although the spill was small, Montana Department of Environmental Quality Director Tom Livers said he is worried about the oil spreading farther downstream once the ice breaks up in spring.